Thursday, November 6, 2014

It was all in the wording...

When my friend and fellow pastor's wife mentioned us ladies using greenery from our "live" Christmas trees, the laughter just came out. I glanced back at a friend sitting near me, expecting her to understand my sudden laughing fit, but her sweet smile just gave me that look that said she'd still be my friend when this was all over. I'm pretty sure she was just sympathizing with my crazy laughing, in the middle of a women's ministry meeting, during a moment when there really wasn't anything THAT funny being said. I mean, we were only talking about how to use fresh greenery as a centerpiece at our church ladies Christmas dinner. Not really altogether laughing material. Oh well. I couldn't even remember what was so funny after the meeting was over.

Until this morning... I woke up and nearly tripped over my own ability to recall memories from the "live" Christmas trees in my past. I knew right away that was where the laughter came from. Three little words that struck laughter from the depths: "Live Christmas Tree".

I've always loved the smell of a freshly picked Christmas tree. My parents used to load our family up a few weeks before Christmas and take us to a tree farm in order to find the most perfect tree ever. We would look, for what seemed like forever, and all compete to find THE tree. Did it have a straight trunk? Did it have good hanging space for the ornaments? Were there any live critters in it? Once found, the family meeting convened, and my dad sawed the tree down. We'd haul the tree to the farm's entrance, they'd shake it for all the dead needles to fall out, and we'd load it up to take it home. It was ALWAYS a fun family day setting up the Christmas tree, and I was left with the best memories as childhood slowly slipped away.

Years later, I got married. Brandon and I married younger than most, and we found ourselves living in Texas so he could attend seminary. Our first Christmas together, I was insistent on having a live tree. We didn't have any extra money to spare, and we had also just found out that I was carrying a wee one in the belly. So, you can just imagine the amount of emotional trauma going on that year for Brandon: 1st Christmas, pregnant wife, no family, hardly any money... but the fresh tree was a must! So, he did the most valiant thing he could. He took me to Walmart and helped me pick out the cheapest pine tree we could find. OH MY WORD. It smelled so good in the house, but that was the only glorious tidbit about that darned little tree. The needles on that tree were so sharp that Brandon had to put on gloves so he could decorate it. Yes, I don't even know if I helped decorate it. Surely, this wasn't the way it was when I was a child! Those memories made everything feel so perfect. (Did I mention how much sneezing this live tree brought that year?)

Note from Brandon:
She left out the morning (all-day) sickness and that she was "getting sick"every few minutes while the tree was being set-up.  And the rash....My arms looked like I had been hauling poison ivy for hours.  Then, a few days after getting this lovely tree, Kristen's grandmother passed away and we went back to Alabama for the funeral and stayed for Christmas...That's right...we weren't even at home with the tree for Christmas.  Luckily, when we got back to Texas all the needles were already on the ground to save us the trouble of shaking them off. Good times...

Fast forward to pretty much every Christmas thereafter and you will see me pining for my fresh tree, the perfect family memory, and yada, yada, yada. Brandon did manage to convince me that an artificial tree was the answer and that the house could smell good with some pine scented air freshener. He said our allergies would love us for the fake tree. He was right, but I still sulked and whined about our fake and insufficient tree EVERY year. Yep. Glorious, huh?

With several Christmases under our belt, we found ourselves living in New Mexico in 2010. We had just moved to the desert region that fall, and those fresh trees at the local Home Depot were calling my name. There had been no lesson learned, and having a fresh tree in a region were there are hardly any natural growing trees seemed completely appropriate. Uh huh. Softer needles this time, I promised Brandon. Please, please, please! It will smell so good, I said. It will look so great, and it will really feel like Christmas this year, I begged. So, on Thanksgiving week, a full 4 weeks before Christmas, we bought our tree...a tree which had obviously come from some place very far away. The man said to water it lots. Like everyday. But, really? My dad had never watered our tree that much, had he? A live tree in Alabama (where I grew up) is the same as one in New Mexico, right? Plus, that tree was probably already half dead due to being cut and trucked in from who knows where. Anyhow, after having this new tree for a couple of weeks, it was SO dead. I mean, needles were shedding, branches were so brittle, and that beautiful green color was clearly draining from its lovely limbs. So, we used our best intelligence and decided that trimming the trunk must be the only solution to prolonging life. By this point, I was so nervous that it would catch fire at any moment, and Brandon graciously said he would saw the bottom of the tree off while I held it up, fully decorated, as he cut. Yep. We are awesome like that. I'm not sure how catastrophe didn't ensue, but the cutting happened, the tree was place properly back in its stand, and that bad boy was watered everyday like nobody's business. (We also learned a bit about water evaporation rates that year. Yep. New Mexico and Alabama have their differences.) By Christmas day, that tree was so very dead. I was reluctant to even have an electrical ANYTHING near it. I mean, it was on the verge of setting itself on fire just to be done with the misery. Did I mention the sneezing this year?

Yeah, there probably won't be any fresh greenery from our "live Christmas tree" in my table's centerpiece. If there is, you can bet it won't be from any live tree we own. I'm officially over it. No more sneezing. No more gloves. No more fire hazards. But, there will be laughing. Thank you, Jesus, for memories, for laughter...and friends who will smile at me when I'm crazy. "Live Christmas Tree" It was all in the wording.