Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Christmas Tree Saga (of Doom!)

This post is part of
The Merry Christmas To All
(e)Book A Day
(of Doom!)
being hosted by Briane Pagel. Click the link for all the details.

Christmas was a big deal at my house when I was a kid. Well, it was after we moved into my grandparents' house, at any rate. My grandparents decided to retire out to their farm in east Texas, and we "bought" their house from them. We did actually buy it, and I don't know the details of that deal, but it was a good deal for us. It was like moving into that house with its 10' ceilings was a challenge to my mom. A decorating challenge that had to be met each year, and it had to be met in a way that surpassed the previous year. Every year, Christmas grew.

But every year, it started with the tree. The tree was the center of everything, and it had to fill the room. Well, not really, because it was a big room, but it had to go all the way to the ceiling, and it had to do it in a way so that it didn't look like a pole. Let's just say that my mom was not easy to satisfy when it came to picking out the tree each year. We didn't do Black Friday sales; I don't even know if there were Black Friday sales in the 80's, but, if there were, we didn't do them. The weekend after Thanksgiving was the weekend of the hunt for the perfect tree.

That went pretty well most years. It took some doing and the visiting of multiple tree lots, but we'd find something tall and full, and my mom would be happy. I wasn't always all that happy, because I was the one that had to put the lights on the tree under the dictatorial command of my mother, and I was the one that had to drag the boxes and boxes (and boxes and boxes) of ornaments down from the attic every year. And, mostly, I was the one that decorated the tree, because that could be left to me (and sometimes my brother, but he was 10ish and could only reach half way up) whereas the rest of the house could not.

Most years, that went pretty well. Most.

But there was this one year... This one year, I was probably around 16, we went out and got this great tree. And it was a great tree. My mom said it was the best tree ever. 10' tall and 5' wide. Completely full. No bare spots at all. Beautiful. We took it home; my dad cut about an inch off the bottom of the trunk, and they set it up to soak over night, which is something they always did. The next day, we got it into the house and all set up. I put the lights on it. We started decorating but left most of it for the next day.

The next day... That next morning, there was a pile of needles from the tree in a circle around the Christmas tree stand, like the tree had spent the evening trying to build a wall of needles around it. Like it had decided it was too warm in  the house and needed to make itself more comfortable... by shedding its extra needles all over the floor. But the tree must have been a nudist, because "extra" meant virtually all. Seriously, the only thing the tree had left was a big fig leaf covering its privates. That and the lights I'd put on it the night before.

My mother was beside herself, which was really weird for everyone involved except her, because she was so mad she didn't notice. My mom just kind of takes things. She's not one to get upset and take a stand about anything, but she did with this. Before I knew what I was doing, I was back up on the stool taking the lights back off of the tree. We loaded it back into the truck, and we... we took it back.

Yes, we returned the Christmas tree. I can only imagine that the looks on the guys' faces at the tree lot was what my face looked like. I mean, who takes back a Christmas tree? After a few minutes, I felt kind of bad for the guys, because they didn't know what was going on. Who takes back a Christmas tree? They didn't know what to do. The didn't have any procedure. Nothing. Why? Because who takes back a Christmas tree?

My mother, that's who.

I think they let us pick out another tree for no other reason than that they didn't know what else to do. So we picked out another tree. Almost as good as the first, but, you know, with all of its needles intact. My parents shook the tree and bounced it around and everything to make sure it wasn't a trick, but they stayed on, and we took the tree home.

And the first thing my dad did was cut an inch off of the bottom of the tree so that it could soak overnight. Except... except that there was this one branch right at the base of the trunk that had to come off. The tree wouldn't go in the stand with that branch on it, but it needed the fresh cut, too, so that it could drink water and stuff, so, well, my dad cut that branch off... and the bottom third of the tree came off with it.

Let me try and explain this. This wasn't some huge branch or anything, it was just a normal branch at the base of the trunk. At least, that's how it looked. In reality, it was some kind of mutant branch that had taken over all of the other branches at the base of the tree. Just absorbed them or something, because that branch was one whole side of the tree, and, when my dad cut it off, that side of the tree went with  it.

My mother was beside herself again. It was a really weird feeling seeing my mom like that twice in one day, but, again, she didn't notice. She was too busy waving that branch around in the air while the rest of us ran for cover. We loaded the tree back into the truck.


If you thought those guys at the lot had stunned faces the first time, you should have seen them when we came back in the second time. They didn't know what to do. I mean, they'd only just taken their first tree return ever, and they, I'm sure, figured it was some sort of freak occurrence not worthy of a second thought. They hadn't put any procedures into place. Still. And here was my mom bringing back another tree and waving that branch around in the air. I think they were scared she was going to beat them with it.

What else could they do? They let us pick out another tree. My parents shook the tree and bounced it around. It kept its needles. They inspected the all the branches at the base of the trunk. They all looked like they'd stay attached. Finally, we had a tree. They even let my mom keep the branch from the bottom of the other tree.

I don't, now, remember what that tree looked like. I'm sure it was a fine tree. My mom never quit believing that that first tree we'd brought home was the most perfect tree ever. Well, before it lost all its needles at any rate. You know, to this day, I've never heard of anyone else ever returning a "defective" Christmas tree. I wonder if those guys ever did develop a procedure for it.

True story.


  1. That is a new one - returning the tree. Glad my parents were never fanatical about it.
    And really glad we have one of those giant, fiber-optic fake trees so I never have to worry about returning a tree.

  2. I've never heard of anyone returning a tree, either -- and my parents were the kind of Christmas tree fanatics that would do just that.

    Your Mom must have been a force to be reckoned with. Thanks for doing the Blogathon! And you won a book!

  3. Your story brought back a little deja vu remembering Christmases years ago, and I think you're right- I don't think they had Black Friday Shopping back then. Christmas was a time of giving then. Nothing like it is today. I am laughing at the return of the tree. I didn't think they would let ya return one. Definitely enjoyed reading your posting!

  4. That's hilarious. I'm a lot like your mom... I demand satisfaction, and if my tree falls apart when I bring it home, well, you better believe I'm taking it back.

    With that said... I'm with Alex. Give me a fake tree any day. Cleaning up after shedding real trees is not fun.

  5. LOL. I won't even send back my dinner if it's undercooked at a restaurant. I would have just decorated the empty branches and been done with it. Good for your mom.

  6. I don't have any good Christmas stories in my family to tell. I think most of my Christmases just never managed to be special.

  7. Alex: I think a fake tree will never be something we do. The going out to find a tree each year is too big a thing for my kids.

    Briane: Mostly, my mom wasn't which is what made it so surprising.

    G_G: I don't think they thought they'd let anyone do that either.

    ABftS: Oh, man, the tree tries to kill our vacuum EVERY year.

    L.G.: Yeah, and it makes a great story, too!

    Michael: Man, I don't even know what to say... except, I guess, you need to start making up for it now.

  8. Great story. That was too funny. Never heard of the Christmas tree return either. My parents were never all that particular about our trees. Even if they were sometimes scraggly, by the time we got all the lights, decorations, and tinsel loaded on the tree it always looked pretty beautiful to us. You make me miss the smell and aura of a real tree. My wife and I settle for a fake tree these days and it looks okay. And it doesn't become a fire hazard if we don't get around to taking it down til sometime in February.

    Wrote By Rote

  9. This is a great story. I enjoyed reading this.

  10. Never had a real tree... had the puzzle like fake ones for years, used a 18" ceramic on once. Just hung up a poster of a tree one year. Yeah, I don't think anyone has ever looked to me/us for Christmas inspiration.

    Funny story though.

  11. Lee: We have a great Christmas tree search every year, and, I have to say, I'm the one that's hardest to please. Yeah, it's my mom's fault.

    Gina: I'm glad!

    Rusty: >marks Rusty off the list of whom to ask for Christmas advice<

  12. That is a great story. I can relate to parts of it because in my mother's house, there are cathedral ceilings and my baby sister goes out the weekend after Thanksgiving to scour the countryside for the tallest tree in all the land. I think the last one was 15' tall.

    She's never returned one though.

  13. M.J.: Wow! I don't think I would have survived being a teenager if I'd have had to deal with a 15' tree every year.