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Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Great Tree Debate

Him: Maybe this year, we should get an artificial tree.

Me: (wincing slightly, replying quietly) Hmmm...

Him: Why not? It makes so much more sense.

Me: (silence)

Him: It wouldn't leave needles everywhere...

Me: (slight head nod in faint acknowledgment of the truth of this statement)

Him: and then we wouldn't have to clean them up. Every year, there are just so many needles everywhere.

Me: Hmmmm.

Him: And it wouldn't make me itch.

Me: (Slight head nod in faint sympathy for the fact that he is allergic to evergreens; head nod redacted halfway upon realizing that in fact apart from the 20 minutes it takes to carry the tree in and get it firmly in the stand, he doesn't actually have to touch it at all, since I do all of the decorating -- and since he know he is allergic, he enters the setup process ripe with Benadryl and clothed in heavy long sleeves and leather gardening gloves -- and the thing doesn't bother him in the slightest unless he touches it. None of this is spoken, however.) *crickets*

Him: And it would just be so much cheaper!

Me: (finally roused to words) No it wouldn't. Those things are expensive. The nice-looking ones are like $150.

Him: But it's better than spending $40 every year on a live one. We'd be saving money in four years.

Me: We never spend $40. We spend about $25.

Him: Whatever. In the long run, we would still be saving money.

Me: (silence)

Him: (sighing) There is just no good reason to get a real tree every year. It's such a hassle.

Me: But it smells sooo good.

Him: Hmmm.

It might be hard to call it a "debate" when one of the speakers utters approximately 25 words during the entire 15-minute conversation. But, we go through these rounds every single year. In our house, it just wouldn't be Christmas without the Great Tree Debate. It always goes exactly the same way. He always makes the same three points (mess, allergies, expense), to which I always respond in the same ways (silence, head nods, last year's tree receipt). The conversation always ends with him drawn over to the Debating Dark Side, resorting to the dissatisfied "Hmmmm."

And then, a day or two later, we go out and buy another glorious, woodsy smelling, bristly, bushy, gorgeous, ceiling-high perfect evergreen for our living room.

Some years, we have cut it ourselves at a local tree farm, tramping across frozen ground carrying a sharp tree saw, and marveling at just how much junk the "One and Only Shake-ee" really can shake out of a fresh-cut wild tree. (Never seen one of these amazing machines? You stick the tree base into the circular clamp, tighten it down, and the Shake-ee vibrates the heck out of the poor tree to get rid of all the loose twigs, birds' nests and other bits of nature's rubbish that adorn a tree in the real world.)

Other years, we go to local snow-covered parking lots, walk between the rows, examine the trees critically from this angle and that, assess symmetry, problematic bare spots, and which side is properly the front, before finally making a choice.

It is a ritual, this choosing. The bitter nip in the air, the squeak of boots on fresh snow, the excitement of the quest, the warm knowledge of how beautiful the tree will look all set up.

And then, every day for the next three weeks, as you turn the corner to go up the stairs, you get a whiff of Christmas in the form of wafting evergreen.

But do I say any of this to him in The Great Debate?


Because that would be cheating. (Or at least, veering too far off the script.) I have a feeling that when we are 75, we will still have this conversation every year (sometimes twice) in early December. I will always remain relatively silent, and let him talk through his tired old objections. He will always end with a "harumph." I will always smile slightly to myself.

And I will always win.

Because he lets me, of course. He stands firm in his conviction that his logic is unassailable. I stand convinced that Christmas is about rituals. And that smell. That heavenly heavenly smell. And so he, mystified but indulgent, caves. And magic is born in the long feathery needles that look like a fairy land filled with little white lights.

What about you? How would you finish the sentence "It wouldn't be the holidays without..." in your house?


Rachel said...

We have the same debate in our house every year, too, except it's my husband pitching for the live tree. I always win, too. And since I am a gracious winner, I then burn Christmas-y scented candles.

In our house, it wouldn't be the holidays without... the movie A Christmas Story. Over and over and over...

McMommy said...

There is nothing as wonderful or welcoming as the smell of fresh evergreen in your living room!!! I totally side with you on this one!!

In my house, it wouldn't be Christmas with our little Elfie (Elf on the Shelf), watching the Will Ferrell movie "Elf", and my lighted Christmas garland adorning the tops of all the windows.

Also, we are not obsessed with elves. I know it looks that way, but I swear we are not. Although if we do have a third child, we are considering naming him "Keebler".

lattemommy said...

I have to admit to having gone over to the dark side a couple of years ago - we have an artificial tree. Although I absolutely love the smell of a real tree, I can't stand the hassle of getting it, putting it up, getting lights on it, watering it regularly, trying to keep water off my hardwood, cleaning up the needles, disposing of the tree, etc.

We spent a fair penny on a really nice artificial tree that was pre-lit, which makes it such a pleasure to put up and decorate. I do become nostalgic every year for that real tree smell, but I quickly get over it. Artificial works for me. But it's not for everyone, that I know.

In our house, it wouldn't be the holidays without Christmas music. All kinds. All day, every day. I love it. :)

Amber said...

It wouldn't be the holidays without a real tree. True story. Of course, we don't have one because we'll be in Canada so I'm just not feeling it with the holidays.

Though we've had TERRIBLE luck with trees. We have traditionally bought the day after Thanksgiving but it's dead by Christmas.

KD @ A Bit Squirrelly said...

We have tossed around the idea of artificial, but then we think of all the fun we would miss out on by going to the u-cut with the kids.

It wouldn't be the holidays with out my snowmen. I have been collecting them for a few years and about four years ago my mom made us stockings and then quilted a tree skirt. After my youngest was born she surprised me with a stocking for him. It completes the season for me!

angie said...

making homemade sugar cookies with someone you love. usually family. sometimes friends. but always the same recipe that has been in our family for over 50 years. always with the same yummy frosting. and always with way too many decorations.

Mrs F with 4 said...

Well, I suppose if you want to be all pedantic, you could refer him to http://www.christmastree.org/debate.cfm which explains all about the PVC, dioxins, lead etc that the manufacture of artificial trees creates. Not to mention that they take about a squillion years to biodegrade in the landfill, instead of being all nice and compost-y (and absorb CO2 while they're growing).

For me, Christmas wouldn't be complete without church services, carols, Christmas cake (yes, Great-Grandmama's recipe), mincepies (ditto for recipe) and brandy butter. And in-laws, so make that LOTS of brandy butter.

BOSSY said...

You are so much nicer than Bossy. She would have tsked and grunted and selected her live tree, preferably a Douglas Fir.

LceeL said...

The only problem is there are too many people and not enough house. So we go artificial.

Christmas in our house would never be Christmas without Annie. She ALWAYS makes it special. And the boys all home and the Christmas morning gift exchange.

DC Urban Dad said...

Can't do the fake. Just can't. Go real or go home. Going fake is like phoning it in.

Must have a real tree. Must watch the old classics. Must bake cookies at least once.

Dr. Mom said...

It wouldn't be Christmas without our white, talking/singing, life-size snowman that the kids love. It has a microphone that the kids can sing into which makes the snowman's mouth move to their words. Once we get it out of the attic, it is in constant use until we put it back. It is too cute! When my kids remember Christmas once they are grown, this will be one of their favorite memories.

Kimmylyn said...

There is nothing like a real tree.. We all love getting one each year.. Now that the boys are getting older we make sure we let pick out the tree.. It is just one of those days that make me all giddy..

Ree said...

My grandmother's nativity scene. Even though the cats tend to wander off with Baby Jesus. (We always find him before we put it away.)

Momisodes said...

Like you, it wouldn't feel like the holidays without a real tree. We've had a small artificial one for the past few years due to temp. apartment living, but this year, it's a 'real' Christmas :)

bejewell said...

We have a plastic shark that was given to us by a drunk reveler on our wedding night. We were on Sixth Street in Austin, still in our wedding clothes, and this guy was hammered and for some reason gave us this plastic shark, I guess as a wedding gift.

It was still sitting out when we put up our tree that year, and these were the salad days when we didn't have many decorations, so the shark was used to take up space. It got stored away with the rest of the decorations and still comes out every year, even now 12 years later --- placed on the tree with everything else.

Christmas would NOT be Christmas without it.

I am NOTHING if not nostalgic.

Kelley said...

Girl, use me.

Tell him he could be married to me.

With my 8 trees, 2 real. One real one in the lounge and one in the hall next to our bedroom so I can smell that Christmas smell all night long...

MommyTime said...

I love hearing all your stories -- but I have to say that Beej wins the prize for the craziest, funniest nostalgic item. LOVE it.

Kelly, I forgot to mention your eight trees this year in our Debate. It wouldn't be quite the same to introduce new points into the tired old conversation, but that certainly would help! :)

Daisy said...

We've debated the tree, but part of the reasoning lies in our pet rabbits. They will chew on the tree, real or fake, and if we buy a fake one, we'll be stuck with the chewed-up branches for years.
But at our house, it wouldn't be Christmas without cookies.

MomZombie said...

It wouldn't be Christmas without Vince Guaraldi's "A Charlie Brown Christmas" playing on the stereo.
You really captured the essence of the annual ritual of the Christmas tree.

Jaina said...

I'm glad you win that debate. It wouldn't be Christmas without a real tree and without my family Christmas morning and cousins in the afternoon.


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