You know those things you never thought you’d ever do? And I don’t mean climbing Mt. Everest or bungee jumping from the Golden Gate; I mean stupid stuff like wearing brown shoes with a blue suit or putting on a Christmas sweater covered with Santas. Whether it’s because of upbringing or habit, there are some things you never imagine yourself doing. Whether they’re gauche like honking your horn in Charlottesville or picking your nose in public, or tasteless like farting in church or flipping the bird to an old lady, there’s just stuff you don’t picture yourself doing.
That’s why I was dumbfounded when I found myself ordering an artificial Christmas tree from Home Depot. I’d always thought fake trees were a sacrilege, a perversion of the natural order that only a classless boor would ever dare to enter into. Yet here I am clicking on the PLACE ORDER button and thinking, “They have gotten so much better they almost look real.” Who’s kidding who? In the back of my head, I’m thinking, almost real isn’t real!
Back when we moved onto the farm, we used to cut down small cedars and turn them into Christmas trees. Although they were scrawny with all kinds of holes, talk about authentic—they were as real as you could get. Grew up right on the farm!
We did that for three or four years until Annie got tired of their undernourished character and insisted we get a real Christmas tree. “There’s a tree guy up on 29 that I’ve heard has great trees—let’s go up there.”
And for a long time we did, sorting through tree after tree looking for the perfect one, forking over our ninety bucks, tying them to the top of the car and carting them home.
Then there was the whole Christmas tree who-hah, spending a good two days putting up the tree, dealing with that infernal tree stand, crawling under the tree to screw in its clamps, hearing the dreaded words: “It’s leaning way to the left, you’ve got to start over.” One year I had to loosen and tighten the damn things three times before I got it straight. Then spilling water all over the floor trying to fill the thing up.
But maybe the worst part of the whole supposedly joyous occasion is dealing with the lights. You should know that Christmas tree lights have a secret. No matter how carefully you put them away, over the summer, they wake up and contort themselves into irresolvable tangles and in the process, wear themselves out. So when you finally get them untangled, you find they don’t work.
By the time you get to the ornaments, your Christmas spirit is flagging, and you’re well into your third eggnog.
So this year we decided to take a Christmas shortcut and get a fake tree. It arrived in a huge box, seven feet long and three wide. And it took a good half hour to open it. The tree (or should I call it the thing) was bundled up in three sections, top, middle and bottom and came with a rickety-looking tree stand. The instructions told you to unfold the branches and spread them out, kind of like peeling a banana. Each branch is carefully wrapped in tan plastic with the needles intertwined, so it actually looks real (as long as you don’t touch it). Must have been thousands of Chinese worker bees wrapping branches for hours on end.
Next, you have to separate the branches, some going left, some right, put the section in the stand and plug it in. The advantage of a fake tree is that the lights are already on it and if you can believe it, they work!
Next comes the second section. You do the branch thing, slide the second into the first and plug that section in. Eureka! The lights come on.
Then the top section and in an hour, you’ve got a lit Christmas tree that kind of looks real (just don’t get too close). And you’ve ducked untangling lights, fighting with the tree stand, fiddling with ornaments and making I don’t know how many trips to Lowe’s. We even found smelly sticks, Scentsicles they’re called, with a white fir scent, so the tree even smells real.
Now comes the moment of truth. You have friends over to see if they are going to condemn you for besmirching the sacred rituals of Christmas by getting a fake tree.
You are shocked when they say, “Gosh, that’s a pretty tree.”
“Thanks, but it’s fake,” I tell them.
“Really? But it even smells real,” they say, sounding unconvinced.
“Yup,” and here’s where I start to think, maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Our friends aren’t giving us cockeyed glances like we’d done something awful. They are actually impressed by how real the tree looks and smells. Never expected that I thought I’d be drummed out of the neighborhood.
Moral of the story: you can teach an old dog new tricks.
Now, I’ve always been tempted to Astroturf the lawn, no more mowing, no more pulling weeds, no more brown spots where the dogs peed. Heck, if I can get away with a fake Christmas tree, maybe I can sneak by with a fake lawn. Who knows, perhaps they make Scentsicles with a freshly-cut grass scent, so the Astroturf smells real.
Let me give it some thought. In the meantime, Merry Christmas!