I’m doing it this weekend.
Unlike in many, many, many years in the past, when it would stand until the branches bowed convex and were favoring the brown side of green and when the needles had become little weapons stabbing you to protect their ornaments until they sacrificed themselves to carpet the carpet with their barbed edges awaiting an unsuspecting stockinged foot. So sneaky. But not this year.
Yet, this year’s tree was not without its own dramas. It begins with a process.
First, I placate my conscience by making sure that the proceeds for a pricey fire-hazard farmed for my holiday pleasure goes to a “good cause.”
Then there’s the search for the right tree. It has to be a very tall tree that isn’t too wide (old house with small rooms and high ceilings). I really like the impact of a TALL tree. It’s so impressive.
I don’t like the really long needles, so there’s that. And I can’t ever remember the type tree that we usually get. White pine? Douglas Fir? Fraser? Colorado Blue Spruce? Some people know. I don’t. But I know what it should smell like. And the smell is key. I usually grab a branch and run my hands along it to feel the needles and, if it feels good, I sink my nose into its cold body and take a big whiff, because when you get your tree it needs be cold and smell like cold and sweet pungent pine.
So it looks and smells right, but, and this is critical and based on prior trauma, will it stand upright for the duration? This is when we hold it and spin it and study the trunk, because depending on the cut and any squirrely bend in the tree, you can find yourself rehanging ornaments all season. Or, as in one year, someone might just pick it up off of the ground and javelin it across the room accompanied by a volley of sharp words not appropriate for you, Loyal Reader.
After much scrutiny, unwrapping and review of trees in the secret stash and a highly supervised and exacting chainsawing of the bottom branches, we brought the tree home. (Also after a most excellent and celebratory hot toddy and bar snacks.)
Guess what? The damn tree was unstable in the tree stand.
Yup. So there was much additional doctoring of the branches, backs and forths with hacksaws, crosscut saws, heavy duty pruners, and likely a switch blade. It stood, but if a heavy truck drove down our street, it would surely drop.
It was time for the big gun. But that was not without some regret as the Big Gun’s solution included screwing the tree stand into a block of wood that ended up breaking in half and then taking a pair of these bad boys
and posting them on top of that plank for additionally stability. This is where the size of the tree is important since you can almost–almost I say–cover them with a tree skirt and still have room for presents underneath in the front.
The next day I climbed the rickety ladder–I mean why buy a new ladder when you can continue to use the one that your Spouse found in the shed at the group house he lived in 30 years ago?–to place the star on the top of the tree.
I got the star about four or five years ago. Decent tree toppers are almost impossible to find and this star has faceted mirrors to reflect the lights on the tree. I was ecstatic that it didn’t light up with some garish LED lights that looked more like a downtown Cincinnati bar sign (drink bush lite here). It would light from the tree itself. But when you buy something online, you might find yourself focusing on how it looks, because, well that’s what you see online, a beautiful star on a beautiful Pottery Barn tree in an amazingly beautiful curated holiday scene. You don’t recognize, for instance, that the star weighs 75 pounds and there is no discernable way to attach it to the tree.
So you get on the rickety ladder and braid together some old bread ties so they are long enough to wrap around the top of the tree and the tree topper (you don’t do the braiding until you are on the top of the ladder because, I don’t know, you like to swing back and forth with a 75 pound fragile star in your hand at the top of a rickety ladder while crocheting wire ties together?!). And you do this same thing every year because, I don’t know, Christmas?
Anyway, you get on the top of the rickety ladder with your ties and your star and start the process of braiding and then affixing it to the top of the tree. Lot’s of twists of lots of ties.
And then, and then, and then—you notice that the tree is starting to list to starboard. It seems strange since there are 100 pounds of weights holding it down, but it pitches anyway, and there is no time for additional analysis. It’s time for action. From the top of the rickety ladder you un-secure the twist ties that you really really twisted while trying to hold the tree upright and trying to keep yourself from losing balance and tumbling off the ladder onto the tree.
You know just what is needed. The tree needs to be tied to the wall. And you need a Bulleit.
And, today, it’s coming down.