Fake tree, real joy

Published 9:34 pm Monday, December 8, 2008

Our publisher, Jesse Lindsey, wrote in this space on Sunday about how his family observed a new holiday tradition this year — the search for and acquisition of a real Christmas tree.

Don’t get me wrong, now; I like Jesse. Anybody who has met him will know that I’m not exaggerating when I say that there are few people who are friendlier or more congenial in all of Suffolk. Virginia clearly got the better end of the deal when he moved here from Alabama.

Still, and with all due respect, he’s completely and utterly wrong about Christmas trees. And I wonder how many Christmas seasons will pass before he finally comes to his senses.


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Let me make the requisite qualifications right here, lest I be accused of “grinchery.” I love Christmas, both for its spiritual meaning and in (most of) its secular incarnations. The decorations are beautiful, the food is delicious and we have no ugly family issues that cause spending time with people we don’t often see to be especially stressful.

And who doesn’t like gifts, for crying out loud?

Nonetheless, while the smell of fresh pine needles brings back fond childhood memories of helping my father cut off the parts of the tree that would not fit inside our house, it also reminds me of the howls of pain and frustration I would hear coming from underneath the tree as he maneuvered it into exactly the position that would satisfy my mother’s aesthetic tastes. I learned that being stabbed with a spruce bough — no matter how nice it smells — has a way of dampening a jolly spirit.

An even bigger pain, I learned after several years of putting up my own artificial trees, was draping strands of lights around the tree. Perhaps I’ve blocked the childhood memories of Christmas tree lights, but I’m unable to forget the last time I put up my own tree lights, under the watchful eye of my wife. For my money, nothing says, “Ho, Ho, Ho!” quite like tears and recriminations.

But then came the greatest invention of all time — pre-lit artificial trees. Marital harmony was restored in the Spears home, and once again we could experience the Peace of Christmas.

This year, with a nightmarish work schedule, I was unable to help with the decorating at all. One night I came home late and found the Christmas boxes that my stepdaughter and her fiancé had brought in from the shed. The next night, the tree stood unadorned in our living room, and the next night it was beautifully decorated with our favorite ornaments.

“Why’d you put the Santa-in-an-airplane ornament on THAT side of the tree?” I asked this weekend, examining the fruits of my wife’s labor. “I like it to be up front.”

Here’s a lesson for you: Even pre-lit Christmas trees can’t guarantee marital bliss in a home where the husband’s an idiot.