Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Christmas Cave-In

     This post could bear one of two titles, "The Christmas Cave-In" or "How a Fake Tree Saved My Marriage." The Husband and I have been married for thirty-six years and traditionally Christmas has always been one of the hardest seasons for us to weather in unity, equanimity, peace or with composure, much less a joint manifestation of some semblance of sacrificial love. Despite the deeply spiritual significance of Christmas and all that it represents to us as believers in Christ, the husband and I have had the most serious wars of our marriage over of all things, a Christmas tree. I should be embarrassed. He should be embarrassed. We are. But we have also come to grips with the reality of the way that each of us looks at life. And it could not be more different.
     The Husband barely tolerates the Christmas tree. I dearly love the Christmas tree. And right there you have it. From day one of our marriage, the die was cast. The gauntlet was thrown...unbeknownst to either of us. He grew up in a family where the mother was perfectly happy with a minimally decorated tree and a minimally decorated house. For her, Christmas was all about the food and she was an exceptional and noteworthy Southern cook of the finest order, but decorations of a Christmas nature were definitely not her forte. I, on the other hand, was a descendant of a family line that revered all of the traditions of Christmas and in particular those that involved decorating and entertaining with style. My grandmother won her Garden Club Decorating Door contest for several years running, and she took her Christmas celebration, entertaining, and decor quite seriously. So did her daughter, my mother. My husband had no idea what he had married into, and I doubt that hot summer day in August when we spoke our vows that he ever even thought about Christmas. And truth be told, nor did I.
      But then Christmas did what Christmas always does. It came around. You might remember from an earlier post on the Christmas Bride, that the husband originally felt that since we used to travel out of state for the week of Christmas every other year, that on the year of travel, the tree was a completely superfluous purchase. We traveled to Florida that very first year of our marriage, but returned to our tiny apartment on the 23rd of December. After much crying, travail, and the use of feminine wiles, on Christmas Eve the Husband finally agreed to the purchase of a small table top tree. A real tree, of course. I distinctly remember that he talked the tree lot owner down to the bargain basement price of four dollars. Yep, you read it right. Four dollars. A bonafide bargain even in those days. Never mind that half the needles fell off the tree as we carried it up three flights to our apartment. It was a tree. I even managed to persuade him to stop at Walgreens (it was about the only thing open that late on Christmas Eve) to buy a few ornaments, which thankfully had already been marked 75% off. Although they were picked over, I managed to find a few hideous satin covered styrofoam balls and a plastic nativity which remained intact for the next thirty years where these ornaments always had a place of honor on our tree. They were the beginning.
     So having won that battle, I had little idea that we had just left the equivalent of the first shots fired at Fort Sumter for another war of another nature, one that was akin to the Alamo. Each and every year we would travel to the tree lot or to Home Depot to buy our tree. Our trees have represented all that the Christmas tree business has to offer. We have progressed from Scotch pines to Douglass firs and finally Frazier Firs. We have had tall trees and short trees. Skinny trees that looked more like pencils with erasers than trees. We have also had trees that appeared to be the incarnation of Queen Victoria...short and squat. We have had trees that looked like they were orphaned from birth and trees that looked like they could have graced the White House. And sadly, every one of them represented a battle. A contest of wills. His and mine.
The Husband would have been happy for the tree to remain outside "resting" for two weeks or even three before hauling it into the house. I would resort to badgering and cajoling to get him to bring the tree in and set it up, a task I tried to accomplish once or twice on my own, but found myself seriously lacking the requisite physical strength. It quickly became readily apparent that he was required to be on board.
     Once the tree was in the house, the next battle would ensue: getting the tree in the stand and upright: a wrestling match of the finest order. Words would be muttered under the breath and there would be much huffing and puffing. And then. Then he would collapse and say that's all I can do tonight. No lights. No angel on the topmost branches. I would grumble and pout and relent, because he is a man not easily moved.
Then the lights. More frustration. More disagreement. More disaster. And still no angel. If the tree was not too tall, I would haul the ladder in from outside and affix the angel myself, but it really was a job that usually required two people as she is quite a delicate thing. Some years, the sons were available to help, but none of them are too enamored of the idea of helping to decorate a Christmas tree. They must take after their father.
     I resigned myself early on to the fact that I would be largely responsible for decorating the tree, and it was a task that The Daughter and I enjoyed together for many years. We would put the Amy Grant Christmas album (the one with Tender Tennessee Christmas on it) into the CD player, make some hot chocolate and go to town. Those were delightful times.
    But then...then The Husband and I would get to the real battle zone. The dreaded REMOVAL OF THE TREE. No matter how many times I sought to prepare The Husband for this final task, he always tried and mostly managed to dodge. I guess in his mind, he had already done his part (hauling the tree into the house and setting her in the stand) and hauling out was not included in his duties.
    When the three sons were in the house, the Christmas tree battles were not as lengthy and protracted, but once the children went to college, things definitely got worse. Each year as Thanksgiving neared I began to dread the Christmas Tree wars. It was an old battle and I had no taste for it.
     So after thirty-four live trees, year before last I caved-in. On the day after Christmas, I did not go to the mall, instead I went to the Christmas tree store. I stood in line with what seemed like hundreds of women and listened while the salespeople extolled the virtue of one fake tree over another. I groaned inside, but I was determined. When I finally made my selection, I felt a tiny twinge of angst but that soon abated. The next year when Christmas rolled around and The Husband hauled the giant box into the house, less than twenty minutes elapsed before I found myself admiring a lovely shaped tree, fully lit and replete with the delicate bisque and lace angel firmly ensconced at the top. I knew then I had arrived. There were no mutterings under the breath, no pleading on my part, no tempers flaring and no frustration evident in either of our faces. We were smiling. I will repeat that. Smiling. So what if the tree did not emit that magnificent smell? I bought some fir scented spray and put live greens in other places throughout the house. I didn't have to worry about a dried out and withering tree crashing over. I didn't have to endlessly sweep and vacuum my living room multiple times. I was finished with finding needles in my carpet in June. I now have a happy husband and that makes me a happy wife. So what if I caved. I bought the fake tree. I know without a doubt that it has made a difference in my marriage. I only wish that I had done it sooner. But then again, I confess that I am an exceptionally stubborn woman. Bet you couldn't guess that, could you?!
Yes, it's a fake!


  1. boo boo boo to fake trees- i'm still holding out! thank the lord though for sons-in-law!

  2. I laughed all the way through because I could have changed some details and signed my name to this post. We are so much alike. Stubborn? Who me? As she digs her heels in and smiles brightly.

  3. Kathy, I feel your pain. Our family tradition each year was to go to Strickland's Christmas Tree Farm and tag our tree the day after Thanksgiving because my children insisted on a "real" tree (although they offered no help in its removal). We would return a week before Christmas to cut it down only to learn that someone had taken it (seems that was some other family's tradition - take the Anderson tree). This went on until they all moved out and we now all enjoy my fake tree every year! Merry Christmas and thank you for your wonderful blog!

  4. I think my family would feather and tar me if I even considered a fake tree. But knowing both of you as well as I do.. I think it was a brilliant idea!

  5. well, it's mighty purdy for being fake!! and might I add that stubbornness is a gift...keeps those husbands from getting bored:)

  6. I just stopped by after reading your sweet comment on my blog - thank you!

    I love this post -- for many years I helped my mom with her Christmas tree because my dad refused to take part :) She, too, has a fake tree now.

    I also read through your husband's Christmas letter and was awed at his witness to his coworkers - all 800 of them! I'm sure God has used him year after year to plant seeds in the hearts of some of the men and women at his company.

    Thanks again for your encouraging comment and Merry Christmas!


Thank you for taking the time to comment. We appreciate your input and feedback! Have a blessed day!