The truth about the tree

blogDSCN8303Shh!  Don’t breathe a word of this to my grown up kids.  It’ll be a secret just between you and me, okay?

It’s true confession time, and the truth is…I miss having a real Christmas tree.

There I said it.  If they ever find out, they’ll never let me live it down.

A couple of years ago, when our son was in his last year of college, I vowed to end the time honored tradition of cutting down a real, original pine-scented, honest-to-goodness natural evergreen tree to adorn our living room for the Christmas season.

Here’s how it happened: 

Mama’s Ode About the Tree

“Its sight is quite lovely

With ornaments bright.

Its lights how they twinkle

Through a long winter’s night.

It spruces up the living room

With its scent so divine.

And makes the entire household

Smell the fragrance of pine.

But…

Its thirst never ending,

Its boughs how sticky.

And once it drops needles

The carpet gets icky.

So Mama says enough!

You’re not here to clean,

So out with the real tree,

To a different kind of green!”

I admit the reason I banished a real tree was because I was sick and tired of cleaning up after the thing.   The tradition of going out the weekend after Thanksgiving as a family in search of the ‘perfect’ evergreen was the fun part.  We’d bundle up against the cold wintry air, Papa would load up the saw and rope, bungee cords, or whatever he needed to cut down a fir and strap it to the top of our car.

We’d tramp around a Christmas tree farm searching high and low until eureka!  There it was.  Our tree.  Papa chopped, kids helped drag, we sang Christmas carols all the way home.

Excitement reigned as we brought the tree into the house.  Adorning it with all the ornaments gathered over the years brought back memories and we joyfully worked as a team to decorate our pine with brightly colored lights and shiny baubles.  Then we would extinguish all the house lights, flip the switch to our twinkling tree, and bask in its glow.

The real Christmas tree provided delight throughout the season, as long as someone remembered to keep it watered (usually Papa.)   Keeping with our family tradition, we allowed O Christmas Tree to live with us until New Year’s Day when we all pitched in to untrim it, haul it out of the house, and clean up the aftermath.

But as the years went by, the children matured, flew out of the nest, and Mama and Papa were left with tree cleanup duty!   When you erect your tree Thanksgiving weekend and keep it up until New Years, your tree wilts and withers.  Sharp dry pine needles weave their way deep into the carpeting, the perky pine boughs sag, ornaments droop and drop off its branches.  And it generally is a huge mess.

After stripping it bare of tinsel and garland, beads and bangles,  lights and the angel sitting on top, it seemed as if there were more needles on the floor than on the tree.  And when Papa yanked that sad sight out of the tree stand to transport it out the front door, sticky pine water leaked out and a steady trail of prickly needles, which could easily convince you that you were on a trek through the forest instead of a house,  led you from the living room to the front porch.

So Mama said, “Enough is enough!”  Since none of our kids were here to help with the piney clean-up, I declared no more real trees.  Oh, the protests!  “No real tree??  How dare you mess with tradition! What are you thinking?  You and Dad are turning into Scrooges!”

But Mama was not to be persuaded.  (I admit I’m a bit headstrong.) So hubby and I promptly went out that year during the after Christmas sales and bought ourselves a fancy-dancy pre-let artificial discounted tree. …which lasted maybe two years.  The lights went hay-wire, we couldn’t find replacements, and we finally just stripped all the lights off of it.  Now each year, we must painstakingly string our own pain in the neck beautiful twinkling lights on that nice, fake tree.     So much for the convenience of a pre-lit one.

The artificial tree is easy to erect, that’s for certain.  It doesn’t scratch up my arms producing hives like a real tree.   It doesn’t shed (good boy!).  It doesn’t lean precariously to one side.  It doesn’t make my fingers stick together with pine sap.   It doesn’t require watering every day.  It doesn’t have sagging boughs.  It doesn’t require much clean-up after it’s untrimmed and stripped of its glory.

But it doesn’t look different every year no matter how we arrange the ornaments and lights.  It doesn’t exude that outdoorsy scent of the forest.  And it doesn’t produce that exciting ‘decorate the Christmas tree feeling’ either.  Matter of fact, it’s kind of boring.  Ho ho hum.

I’m not convinced that I want to revisit the messy clean-up, but I find myself waxing nostalgic in my book called Opportunity, Chapter 12, Page 15, about a real, honest-to-goodness natural evergreen tree.

Maybe I’m just being foolish like  “The Foolish Fir Tree” by Henry Van Dyke, a poem in which a little fir tree wishes for a fancier dress than his plain evergreen clothes until he realizes what he already has is the best.

Hmmm…let me go take another look at that fake tree in the living room while I make a decision about that.  And in the meantime, you can read The Foolish Fir Tree, if you’d like.

 ©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

The Foolish Fir-Tree by Henry Van Dyke

A little fir grew in the midst of the wood

Contented and happy, as young trees should.

His body was straight and his boughs were clean;

And summer and winter the bountiful sheen

Of his needles bedecked him, from top to root,

In a beautiful, all-the-year, evergreen suit.

But a trouble came into his heart one day,

When he saw that the other trees were gay

In the wonderful raiment that summer weaves

Of manifold shapes and kinds of leaves:

He looked at his needles so stiff and small,

And thought that his dress was the poorest of all.

Then jealousy clouded the little tree’s mind,

And he said to himself, “It was not very kind

“To give such an ugly old dress to a tree!

“If the fays of the forest would only ask me,

“I’d tell them how I should like to be dressed,

“In a garment of gold, to bedazzle the rest!”

So he fell asleep, but his dreams were bad.

When he woke in the morning, his heart was glad;

For every leaf that his boughs could hold

Was made of the brightest beaten gold.

I tell you, children, the tree was proud;

He was something above the common crowd;

And he tinkled his leaves, as if he would say

To a peddler who happened to pass that way,

“Just look at me! Don’t you think I am fine?

“And wouldn’t you like such a dress as mine?”

“Oh, yes!” said the man, “and I really guess

I must fill my pack with your beautiful dress.”

So he picked the golden leaves with care,

And left the little tree shivering there.

“Oh, why did I wish for golden leaves?”

The fir-tree said, “I forgot that thieves

“Would be sure to rob me in passing by.

“If the fairies would give me another try,

“I’d wish for something that cost much less,

“And be satisfied with glass for my dress!”

Then he fell asleep; and, just as before,

The fairies granted his wish once more.

When the night was gone, and the sun rose clear,

The tree was a crystal chandelier;

And it seemed, as he stood in the morning light,

That his branches were covered with jewels bright.

“Aha!” said the tree. “This is something great!”

And he held himself up, very proud and straight;

But a rude young wind through the forest dashed,

In a reckless temper, and quickly smashed

The delicate leaves. With a clashing sound

They broke into pieces and fell on the ground,

Like a silvery, shimmering shower of hail,

And the tree stood naked and bare to the gale.

Then his heart was sad; and he cried, “Alas

“For my beautiful leaves of shining glass!

“Perhaps I have made another mistake

“In choosing a dress so easy to break.

“If the fairies only would hear me again

“I’d ask them for something both pretty and plain:

“It wouldn’t cost much to grant my request,

“In leaves of green lettuce I’d like to be dressed!”

By this time the fairies were laughing, I know;

But they gave him his wish in a second; and so

With leaves of green lettuce, all tender and sweet,

The tree was arrayed, from his head to his feet.

“I knew it!” he cried, “I was sure I could find

“The sort of a suit that would be to my mind.

“There’s none of the trees has a prettier dress,

“And none as attractive as I am, I guess.”

But a goat, who was taking an afternoon walk,

By chance overheard the fir-tree’s talk.

So he came up close for a nearer view;

“My salad!” he bleated, “I think so too!

“You’re the most attractive kind of a tree,

“And I want your leaves for my five-o’clock tea.”

So he ate them all without saying grace,

And walked away with a grin on his face;

While the little tree stood in the twilight dim,

With never a leaf on a single limb.

Then he sighed and groaned; but his voice was weak

He was so ashamed that he could not speak.

He knew at last that he had been a fool,

To think of breaking the forest rule,

And choosing a dress himself to please,

Because he envied the other trees.

But it couldn’t be helped, it was now too late,

He must make up his mind to a leafless fate!

So he let himself sink in a slumber deep,

But he moaned and he tossed in his troubled sleep,

Till the morning touched him with joyful beam,

And he woke to find it was all a dream.

For there in his evergreen dress he stood,

A pointed fir in the midst of the wood!

His branches were sweet with the balsam smell,

His needles were green when the white snow fell.

And always contented and happy was he,

The very best kind of a Christmas tree.

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12 responses

  1. Us too!! I should say me too. My kids are still calling me a traitor. I took it one step further and ditched the bottom section to make a smaller tree, with hubby’s full approval. And the kids? They get the real cut down type. Now just find a pine smelling candle, and you’re good. 🙂

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  2. I like your poem! You are sure right about cleaning up after a real tree, but we still do that every year. Going out into the forest and selecting just the right tree is my wife’s favorite day of the whole year and her joy in doing that makes the rest of it all worth while. (Also, WD-40 takes off that nasty sap.)

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    • Happy to hear you enjoyed the poem, Montucky. I agree there’s nothing like going out into the woods and getting that tree. It just doesn’t seem as much fun without our kids along. Maybe next year, we’ll venture out for a real tree again. Anyway, thanks for the handy tip about WD-40 taking off the pine sap!! I never thought of using that.

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  3. What a beautiful poem: I’d never read that before. Thanks for sharing!

    We have an artificial tree too: a sad, little, half-the-lights-don’t-work-anymore fake tree. Last night we went to my in-laws and helped decorate their HUGE, FRESH, REAL tree. Since I was the youngest person there, I got to crawl under the tree and fill the stand with water. And I came home with sap on my arm.
    Merry Christmas – loved reading this post – YOUR poem was great, too!

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    • Isn’t it a sweet poem? How fun you got to decorate a big ol’ real tree! Except for that crawling under the tree part, makes my achy back and hip go into spasms just thinking about that! 😉 Montucky says to use WD-40 to take that sap off. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Dianna

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  4. I certainly enjoyed reading all of this. I love your poem and Van Dyke’s. My husband hates finding needles all over the house…how does that happen? His poem reminds me of one of my favorite golden books that I saved for our girls, “The Littliest Christmas Tree”. It tells the story of a small tree that was strapped to the mast of a ship and became the tallest tree of them all, commanding a far reaching view. I have looked for another copy…and will have to search the internet I guess…to gift both girls so they have their own.
    For a few years as the girls grew up, we had an artificial tree…Daughter #1 got good at taking it down and putting it up so excited was she to get the show on the road. Then, our church asked for artificial trees to give away and we donated it…we’ve gotten the real thing ever since. Since the girls are home for Thanksgiving, we choose and put the tree up the weekend after.

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      • It must be those tiny, creeping things that cart them (needles) from the tree to all reaches of the house! (sorry, couldn’t resist that one) 🙂
        Our oldest brought in their tree and discovered a hatching nest of baby spiders flying on their tiny, silk strands to wherever they might land to make a new home! (inside the house!!) They quickly ran the tree outside and doused it with bug spray, left it to dry, and brought it in later to decorate! =D

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      • Oh, how well I know about those tiny, creeping things! We had the same experience one year! After that, hubby would give the trees a thorough shower and a very well-eyed once-over before we brought them in the house. Nothing like waking up Christmas morning to find your tree has “new” ornaments and there are cobwebs spun from tree to anything with distance! Eww.

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  5. I miss having a real tree, too. Now we don’t even put up an artificial one because we don’t have a place to put it and we go away for Christmas anyway. But I miss those days when we’d go tramping through the Christmas tree farm to tag the perfect tree. Nice post!

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