Every Christmas morning, I rise before dawn and turn on only the lights of the Christmas tree. In the quiet, I admire the tree’s beauty, its magic really, before I begin wishing “Merry Christmas” via text message to the people I care about. Most Christmas mornings, my daughter joins me. It’s a tradition of sorts.
But I wouldn’t give you two turtle doves for the process that yields the annual Bolejack family Christmas. Rather than an enjoyable family affair, it is often, for a host reasons, the greatest source of our holiday stress.
Every year it seems, the tree never stands straight in its stand, requiring manipulation of one kind or another. (My daughter says she read about a family that tied its tree to a wall to keep it upright.) Every other year, the tree stops drinking water after its first day in the house; never mind that it passed the freshness test on the lot. And no matter when we buy the tree – two weeks or 10 days before Christmas – we seldom get the lights and decorations on until the week of Christmas. In our defense, we get busy doing other holiday things.
This year, we suffered the usual tree troubles and then some. For starters, our usual go-to spots were out of live Christmas trees when we began our search. The lot at Spanky’s was bare. Ditto for the lot at Crooked Row Produce. We ended up at the L&G Farms produce stand on Cleveland Road near Cleveland Elementary School, where the two gentlemen on duty were kind enough to sell us a tree and tie it to the top of our daughter’s car.
I should have known that the longer-than-usual drive to find a tree was a sign of frustration to come. On the lot, our tree was resting against a fence of sorts, not standing upright, so we really couldn’t tell how big it was. Turns out that our tree, while beautiful, was too heavy for our stand – and we learned that after I had driven to Lowe’s to buy the bit needed to drill a hole in the tree for the tree stand.
So after the tree refused to stand on its town, it was back to Lowe’s and then Walmart in a vain search for a heavy-duty stand. Our night owl of a daughter found one later that night at Target in Garner.
A couple of days later, my wife got the lights on the tree after dealing, of course, with at least one strand that, while brand new last year, developed a short while sitting, untouched, in a box in the attic for 12 months.
Then, a day later, came the ornaments, a task my wife and daughter handled while I was at work. At last, we had a decorated tree, though, as you might have guessed by now, it was shedding needles despite drinking an embarrassing amount of water.
But our tree troubles were not over. A day or so later, my daughter sent me an emergency text while I was at work: The tree was leaning precariously, and my help was needed to get it back upright before it came crashing down. When I got home, it was an almost laughable sight, enough to make the Tower of Pisa green with leaning envy.
Some of our tree troubles are of our own making. Because the Christmas tree is largely a family affair, we wait until our daughter gets home from college to buy one. That limits both freshness and availability. We also insist on a real tree, though an artificial one with the lights already on is increasingly tempting, at least to me.
Truth be told, part of me wants to forgo a Christmas tree going forward. But for me, that would take away some of the magic of Christmas morning. And I know my mother-in-law would be disappointed. One year, because the Bolejacks were simply too busy to buy and decorate a tree, we went without one, though my daughter and I printed one out, colored it and taped it to the window nearer to where we usually put the tree. The disappointment on my mother-in-law’s face made me want to crawl under a rock, or under a Christmas tree if only we had had one.
So the Bolejacks will have a Christmas tree next year, though we have resolved this New Year’s Day to buy a smaller one and to buy it, regrettably, before our daughter gets home from college. Our aim is to increase the odds of availability and freshness while reducing, I hope, a source of holiday stress.