I stood in my dim basement, my left foot propped on an antique air conditioner, wrestling a dilapidated cardboard box large enough to hold both my children. I turned the box on end, seeking better purchase, but the weight shifted away from me and I lost my hold.
I tried again, stretching so far that I barked my shin against the damn air conditioner. I hopped around on one foot, swallowing curses. The box remained resolutely wedged in the corner, as though gravity was somehow stronger right in that spot.
It was as if the Christmas tree didn’t want to be put up.
Ten minutes later — with the help of my 3-year-old — I managed to wrestle the box up the stairs.
Faded red letters across the top of the cardboard lid hinted at a majestic lineage:
“A totally new concept — Imperial Bark Evergreen — the tree with life-like bark.” Printed in the same red ink was an image of a woman in an evening gown and tiara, adjusting the tree’s uppermost branches.
The artificial tree was the one my husband’s family used during his childhood, and it has seen almost three decades of stockings, tinsel, and holiday cheer. To say the tree is looking tired these days is an understatement. The stacking, bendable rings of greenery are matted and twisted at the ends. Some of the branches droop so low they practically touch the carpet.
I slid the plastic fasteners off the box and opened the lid. Rings of fluffy plastic evergreen branches nestled inside, but there was not one piece of plastic “life-like bark” to be found.
I could practically hear the tree chuckling:
For 28 years I’ve put up with it now
I must stop this Christmas from coming!
… But HOW?
I glanced down at my outfit — at my kissing frog pajamas and bedroom slippers — and wondered if the tree would be happier if I donned an evening gown. Then I sighed and tracked down my husband, vowing to buy a new tree this year. But 30 minutes later he had located the missing “bark” spacers and the tree was assembled and standing proudly in our living room.
Sorry, tree. Looks like you have at least one more year of Christmas cheer in you. I promise to shop for a replacement at the after-Christmas sales this year. Really.