I have no problem confessing to the fact that I prefer a “real” Christmas tree, the kind that comes with an expiration date. It’s what we usually had when I was growing up, and I loved the ritual of picking out a tree, setting it in a pot of warm water in the garage for a few days while the branches settled, the melodious tones of my dad swearing profusely while we tried to put it up, the previously mentioned playing of the Christmas carols while my sister and I carefully selected and applied the ornaments to the tree … Somehow we could never remember one year to the next what kind of tree we’d had the year before, so we didn’t always get a perfect tree, and as my sister and I are home less in our adult years I understand my parents are less inclined to jump through these hoops for the short time frame we’re around, and I appreciate their efforts:
As we’ve gotten older, we’ve been less inclined to spend hours digging out every ornament and strategically selecting its location. Not only have the trees shrunk over the years (fun fact that would cheer up six-year-old me: a smaller tree doesn’t mean less presents!) but our ornament collection has grown … you can see the problem. We still put out a few classics, of course – the clay figurines my parents got in Guatemala (probably?) before we were born, a few embarrassing home-crafted ornaments from our childhood, cable car ornaments from San Francisco, quality hand-crafted ornaments from our hometown’s now-defunct holiday craft fair, and of course the Lillian Vernon “12 Days of Christmas” ornaments that were a favorite in my childhood. I seem to recall these often went on first, as a badge of honor, and of course the appropriate song had to be playing while they went up.
I still look forward to the tree at home, but haven’t managed to buy a tree for any of the apartments I’ve lived in since.* Luckily, many years ago my parents got me a mini-tree at Walgreens, and I’ve put that to good use. I’ve replaced many of the plastic-y ornaments provided with my own growing collection, and no tinsel anymore because of Cookie, but even considering its tiny stature, it does make it feel more like Christmas.
* My roommate last year bought a lovely tree that we negligently left up until late January, at which point we had to bundle it up like so much tinder and chuck it off the back porch because it would never have survived the trip down the stairs of our creaky third floor walk-up. As we dumped it over the balcony, she commented that we now had all the skills we needed to dispose of a body.