Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sometimes, Fake Really is Better

Now that Thanksgiving is over, I am ready to plug in the exterior illumination, hum a carol or two, and actually acknowledge the Christmas decorations that have been on Target shelves since September 15. This time of year also means shifting the shopping list from "need" to "want," picking a few cookie recipes to become this year's burn casualties, and setting up the tree. The 7-foot, "Fresh-Cut-Look" polyethylene/PVC blend tree.

I grew up with a fake Christmas tree. A very fake tree that made zero attempts at looking real. As a kid, it was my job to put the branches into the color coordinated holes, splay them out, and attempt to make it look a little less fake. Every year I complained about this chore, and every year my hands would lose massive amounts of skin because the branches were made out of a material similar to green steel wool. I was told that the reason we had a fake tree was because of my brothers' allergies, and a real tree would make them miserable. Now I think that maybe my mom lied, and she was just saving herself some misery and blaming it on someone else so she didn't look like the bad guy. She's smart.

When my husband and I bought our first house, I was so excited to spend a festive evening picking out a fresh, real tree. After dragging the thing into the house, leaving a trail of needles, jamming it into a stand, clogging up the vacuum with needles, trying to decorate it without bleeding to death, and then noticing that the house smelled like gin, I realized I wasn't exactly having a Normal Rockwell moment. After all, I hate gin.

For the next few years, I resisted the urge to plop down a couple hundred dollars for a fake tree, figuring I'd eventually love the real tree experience. I was still holding out for the greeting card moment of red-mittened, rosy-cheeked children wandering through the evergreen wonderland, sipping cocoa around a bonfire while the lot attendant tied the tree to the car with twine.

My sanity arrived in 1998 when I realized that no one in the family really likes cocoa and we don't even own red mittens. We never seemed to find a good time to go get the tree as a family, so I loaded the boys up and we went to get the thing ourselves. This was a huge mistake, since apparently I suck at picking a decent tree. I set it up, watered it, decorated it, stepped back to admire it, and literally watched the needles fall to the floor. Over the next few days, the slightest vibration in the house would send hundreds of needles raining down. I'm surprised I didn't need a blood transfusion every time I accidentally touched the thing.

One week before Christmas, while crawling around on the floor playing with Zach, I jammed a needle deep into my knee. I looked at the stupid tree and decided that for the safety of my family, it had to go. After putting on a Band-Aid, I ripped off all of the ornaments, lights and garland, piled the presents on the couch, threw the piece of kindling out the door and headed out to pick up the cardboard box of "stop-and-stare, stunning beauty." I've been using this tree ever since, and have never felt like my family is missing out on something during the holidays.

Some people think it's anti-Christmas to drag out a giant cardboard box once a year and set up a real-looking fake tree, only to fold the thing up and put it back in the box again for the next 330 days . But how is this any more bizarre than chopping down a perfectly good tree that may or may not contain a small woodland creature, tricking the tree into staying alive just a little bit longer by giving it small amounts of water, only to say: "Ha ha! Joke's on you, tree! Off to the garbage heap you go! We've had our fun with you!"

Everyone has their own preference of Christmas cookie, Christmas album, opening presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, and Christmas tree. I like sugar cookies with no frosting, "The Edge of Christmas" (specifically, "Rudolph" by The Smithereens), and the presents piled under the fake tree are opened on Christmas morning. And at no point during the holidays will you ever find me with a glass of gin.


Anonymous said...

great Jody - well written and I really think MOM was right!

jms said...

Real trees look good in the movies. In dry Minnesota winters, they are a fire hazard after 2 minutes of being exposed to indoor air.