Live Christmas Trees? Never Again.
During our first Christmas together as a married couple, I dreamed about all of the new holiday traditions Kevin and I would start. Baking cookies using our family recipes of childhood favorites (hello, apricot icebox cookies), attending midnight mass together, sending holiday cards to friends and family with handwritten notes, exchanging one carefully selected gift on Christmas Eve before the bounty of Christmas morning — and, the pièce de résistance? Getting our first real Christmas tree together.
I envisioned a magical trip to one of the tree farms near our New Jersey home. Blanketed in snow, the farms grew a smorgasbord of evergreens, from blue spruce and Douglas fir to Scotch pine and balsam fir. We’d traipse through the farm holding hands, feeling intoxicated by the aroma of evergreen. We’d search for our perfect first tree, much like trying to pick out just the right kitten at an animal shelter — we’ll know the perfect match when we see it! Afterward, with our trophy tree in hand, we’ll share a cup of hot chocolate at the farm before we head home to decorate our little green wonder.
O Tannenbaum, was I quickly disillusioned.
It started out well enough. We donned festive holiday sweaters and arrived at the tree farm full of hope, with visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads. First, we reviewed the property map to see where the different types of trees were located. Then I purchased a cup of hot chocolate to warm my hands and add to our cheery mood as we hunted for our tree. (My first newlywed discovery: Kevin not only doesn’t like hot chocolate, but he also doesn’t like “warm beverages.” I didn’t realize that was even a thing, but okay.)
Pegging us as newbies, the tree farm owner handed my unprepared husband a rusty saw, and off we went in search of our perfect tree. We strolled through rows and rows of spruce, pine, and fir trees, imagining each tree’s splendor in our living room. Wanting to explore every inch of the farm, we unknowingly headed a bit “off-trail” to a section deep into the property. We didn’t notice the crowds had thinned or that the trucks that helped shoppers transport their trees back to the main gate weren’t running this far back. But onward we went, oblivious.
As I sipped my hot chocolate, I started singing Christmas carols, thinking that we were just nailing it with this Christmas tree experience. Then we spotted the perfect tree — a Douglas fir with gloriously full branches bursting with color and emitting a captivating scent.
It quickly went south from there.
I handed my husband the saw, which he quickly discovered was as sharp as a butter knife. Back and forth, he sawed with the dull blade, increasing in intensity with each push-pull. After five minutes, he’d finally broken through the bark. Kevin vented his rising frustration with under-his-breath mutterings. Meanwhile, I’m cluelessly commenting on the beauty of the full moon, interspersed with comments like, “Oh look! A cute bunny!”
Newbie Mistake #1: Bring Your Own Sharp Saw.
As Kevin maniacally cut away at the tree, he kept switching his hands to balance the tree’s weight and to give his tired wrists a break. Every time he switched, he scratched his hands on the rough bark, branches, and needles, drawing a little blood. And, as a first-time tree cutter, he soon realized that live trees ooze sap. Everywhere. Whatever Kevin touched stuck to him like a kindergartener’s glitter-glue project. He scratched his nose, and — boom, it’s covered in sap, needles, and blood. He switched hands on the saw, and — boom, it’s bedazzled with more of the sticky mess. Kevin was spreading his sap-and-blood mixture like an out-of-control adhesive virus. It. Is. Everywhere. Kevin’s previously quiet, irritated grumbling quickly evolved into angry, kill-the-festive-mood cursing. I began singing “Jingle Bells” louder to drown out his F-bombs.
Newbie Mistake #2: Wear Heavy-Duty Gloves.
I admit it. We unknowingly went rogue on our outdoor adventure. In our search for the perfect tree, we went so far off the map to discover the perfect tree that we didn’t realize we were off the grid. Instead of getting a ride back from the jolly Santa on the hay-covered flatbed, we were stumbling through a tree maze with our fresh kill in hand. I was now clutching my empty cup, feebly singing “Deck the Halls” while Kevin lugged the 12-foot tree behind him like a corpse. I might have cried a few tears as I saw branches snapping on the jagged rocks, leaving a trail of needles in its wake. It took us 25 minutes to trudge back to the main entrance. On a 20-degree night, my husband had taken off his winter coat, sweating profusely after hauling our tree the length of several football fields.
Newbie Mistake #3: Don’t Go Off-Trail.
Here’s an eye-opening fact that, apparently, is common sense to everyone else. Tree branches scratch the paint off of a car. Who knew? And sap might never come off, no matter how many times you wash your car with hot, soapy water. As real-tree newbies, we didn’t realize we needed something to protect the roof of our car when we tied it down. Our brand-new Acura Legend now bore permanent scars etched in the roof from our preciously perfect Christmas tree. Sad face.
Newbie Mistake #4: Bring A Thick Blanket To Protect Your Car.
Once we got our precious cargo home, we put it in the tree stand we bought. Guess what? We discovered we had 10-foot ceilings. The tree measured 12 feet high. (Go ahead, do the math. I’ll wait.) After severing off two more feet at home with a sharper saw, we put it up in the stand. It looked amazing! Well, for two seconds, it looked amazing. Then it fell over. We needed a bigger stand. Off to the store! And then we anchored the tree to the wall, just in case. Exhausted by now, we waited until the next day to decorate it. But honestly, it was a bit anticlimactic at this point. I think we just hung a handful of ornaments, threw some tinsel on it, and called it a day. Whatever. We were so over this tree.
As newlyweds, we tiptoed around our Christmas tree disaster that became a failed tradition. For days afterward, I noticed Kevin reading magazines and accidentally ripping pages out because they stuck to his fingers from the can’t-scrub-it-off sap on his hands. And, even months later, I noticed Kevin grimace in pain after stepping on tree needles that lodged into the cracks of our hardwood floor, despite dozens of attempts to vacuum up its remains.
Sadly (but not surprisingly), that was our one and only live Christmas tree. But I’m happy to report that we still keep a treasured holiday tradition alive. We have our annual Christmas tree argument as we untangle the lights together.