So it seems I have a few minutes here as I sit at my favorite repair shop to have my brakes looked at.
Sunday we set up the tree. Sonya and I have the same debate every year: real vs. fake tree. We’ve had an artificial tree in our shed for several years since our friend, Leigh, donated her old one to us. It’s been through the ringer a bit, after several previous owners, but it still has all of it’s parts and most of the branches are intact. Still, we don’t get it out every year.
Don’t get me wrong, I love having a real tree in the house. The traditional feel and the scent definitely add something to the holidays. In our house, however, it just doesn’t always make sense. I’m not a fan of the prep and expense involved in getting a decent real tree. First, there’s going out in the freezing cold, checking multiple lots for selection and prices, and spending well over an hour once we find a lot we like choosing a tree we can agree on. This one’s too skimpy, that one has a bald spot, the other leans too much, and most are just too fat and have too big a footprint for our tiny house. Then there’s the expense of a decent breed. We (okay, I) don’t want a Scotch pine anymore, despite their rock-bottom price. They were fine when we were young, but they’re too bushy, the ornaments don’t hang well, and they dry our a lot faster. We always go for a spruce, which of course, is about twice the price.
Once we finally find one we like and can afford, there’s tying it to the car, hauling it home, hacking off the end of the stump, wresting it through the door, lifting it onto the stand, and of course, the subsequent clean up of needles that seem to find their way into every crevice and hang around for months. That’s not even mentioning the maintenance of watering and trying to keep my brother-in-law’s visiting dogs from drinking it dry. We also have a nasty habit of procrastinating on getting the things down, so it’ll often stay in our living room, drying out for several weeks after Christmas.
Artificial trees are so much easier. The one we have is fairly tall and thin, and thus has a pretty small footprint. Liam just adores the assembly of, as he calls them, “puzzle trees”, and it gets him more involved in the decorating process. There’s also the wonderful feature of being able to position branches to fill in empty spots and create spots for ornaments to hang better. Clean-up’s a breeze and there’s no worry about the fire hazard of a dried-out, formerly live tree once we’ve forgotten to water it for a couple weeks.
I won (or more appropriately, she acquiesced), and we did the artificial tree this year. Money and time are tight, so it just made sense this year. We assembled the tree Sunday with some welcomed help from Leigh, put the lights up Tuesday, and decorated it last night. We invited Leigh over for some FABULOUS pea soup (courtesy of Sonya) and to help with the decorating.
Decorating the tree used to be one of my favorite parts of the holidays. I always dread the necessary loading and unloading of the stuff, but the actual placement of the ornaments really gets me in the Christmas mood. This year, however, I spent much of the time on the couch. I put the star on first, being the tallest in the house, but with our tree tucked into a tight corner of our living room and 2 eager kids, Sonya and Leigh going at it full force, I just sat back on the couch and watched most of it. I reserved my set of resin Victorian marching band statuettes to put on after the crowd had dissipated.
As I sat there munching on a candy cane, the XM Christmas Traditions station piped through the stereo via my laptop, I caught that Christmas Spirit once more, but for different reasons. Watching my kids, now old enough to be efficient help rather than slow down the process and get in the way, I started to appreciate the holidays on a parental level. This is the magic time. Both of my kids still believe in Santa and the magic of Christmas. I don’t care how jaded you are, watching kids get into the Christmas Spirit is infectious.
Later, after the kids had been in bed for a while and Liam was sound asleep, my daughter got up and was whimpering a bit. She wanted to fall asleep in mommy & daddy’s bed. She does this on occasion, appreciating the softer bed and roominess. I direct her to a potty break on the way (her accidents are few, but truly frustrating when it’s in our bed) and prep the covers for her. As I pull up the comforter, she walks in with a sheepish look on her face, knowing it’s well past bedtime, holding a Christmas Advent book with flaps and pop-ups she can flip.
“You want me to read that to you?”
Her sheepish look fades to a delighted grin and puppy dog eyes. “I duss wanna Trissmas book so I tan doe to sleep”
I give her a warm smile. “Okay. Hop in and snuggle up.”
She excitedly hops into bed and nestles close to me. As I snuggled with my baby girl, reading a Christmas book and recalling images of my kids gleefully attaching baubles and kitsch older than they are to our “puzzle tree”, I had a moment – a moment of parental pride and Christmas cheer. Despite how tight our budget is this year, I am more appreciative than ever of the greatest gift a man can have: his family.
Maybe we'll get a real wreath for some fresh pine scent for the holidays, after all.