Do you ever have those moments where you know you’re acting completely irrationally but you’re so deeply invested in what’s happening and you have so many feelings about it that you have no other option but to just follow your shitty behaviour through to its unpleasant conclusion?
I ask becauser currently, I find myself sitting in my bedroom – my adult woman bedroom – sulking, because I hate my Christmas tree.
We got it earlier today. In previous years we’ve gone to cut our own, but Olive is going to her dad’s for Christmas this year and so everything has been bumped up by ten days so we can do our own Christmas together before she goes.
The cut-your-own place doesn’t open for another week and we just couldn’t wait that long. I mean, for all the effort involved, I feel strongly that a tree’s gotta be up for at least three weeks! That meant this weekend had to be THE weekend.
So, off we went with my sister Lizzie, her husband, and their 7-month-old, Owen. We had to leave the first place we went because they only took cash (?!). I was shocked. I mean who just carries real money around in their wallets? Show me a person who just has cash in their wallets. Why? How? From what? Are people just regularly going to ATM’s and taking cash out just in case they need to buy a Christmas tree at some point in the next few days? I’m so bewildered by how this would happen.
Anyway, I wanted to find one of those Scouts Christmas tree lots but Lizzie was all antsy and didn’t want to drive halfway across the city to get there, so instead, we went to a big grocery store. The trees are all bundled up, of course, so you really have no idea what they look like except for their height, and a rough approximation of their width.
Now, although I wholeheartedly blame Lizzie for making us get a grocery store tree and Olive for choosing this particular tree, I have to claim my own part in this which is that I am weird about clutter and having too many things in my immediate surroundings. I wanted a smaller tree so it would take up less space in our living room and be less stressful for me to look at. Of course, Olive, being an enthusiastic six-year-old with a huge heart, chose the chubbiest tree there. So already I was apprehensive, looking at the width of this thing bundled, which was basically how big I wanted it to be period.
I had planned to transport it on the roof of Lizzie’s SUV but there were no ropes to be had, so I put down half of my back seat and we jammed the tree inside of my car.
When we got home, I was waiting for my brother-in-law to come over and help me take the behemoth out of the car, cut a bit off the trunk, and haul it into my house. While I was waiting, however, I decided that no, I was a strong, independent woman, and I would do it my goddamn self.
Furthermore, I would invite my impressionable young daughter to watch me do it, so she would have a chance to truly comprehend just how strong and/or independent I am.
So I called Olive out to the front steps and she watched me heave this thing out of the backseat. Fully 10% of the needles came off in my car, but that’s fine! That’s what vacuums are for!
I dragged the tree – still bundled – up my front steps and went to the garage to get the saw.
It was a hand saw, obviously, because I don’t own power tools. But I’ve sawed things before!
Olive watched as I sawed back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. Because she’d chosen a chubby tree, the trunk too was quite thick.
After about five minutes she sat down.
The sawing continued. I started sweating. The cut I was making started to seem like it was slanting somewhat, so I tried to correct it. Still slanted. More sawing. More attempts at correction. Some swearing.
Olive went inside.
Finally, the saw broke through and the chunk of trunk fell off and by that point I was so filled with rage and irritation that I kicked it clear across the porch.
“Olive!” I poked my head into the house and called, cheerily, “Get ready! Here comes the tree!”
She was gleefully clapping as I hauled it through the door, leaving a thick trail of needles behind me. (This stupid grocery store tree was halfway dead already!)
I dragged it into the living room and struggled to lift it up and inside the tree stand, finally, after some wobbling back and forth, managing to grab one of the thick lower branches and lift it up off the ground enough to get it set down inside.
The way our tree stand works is that there are four bolts that you screw into the trunk of the tree to hold it in place and adjust as needed.
While Olive stood back and gave instructions, I tightened the bolts so that the tree would stand straight. The problem was that no matter how I tightened them, Olive kept telling me it was slanted to the left. Finally, I got frustrated and, making sure the tree was held sturdy, got up so I could go stand where she was and make sure she understood what she was supposed to be doing.
When I did, I saw that unfortunately, she was indeed correct. The tree was leaning fully 30′ to the left. It looked like this
And as I was trying to figure out why, exactly, it looked the way it did, the entire fucking thing started falling over. It just very quickly tipped, pouring tree-water and pine needles all over my carpet. I rushed to grab it and struggled to right it while Olive hopped around yelling helpful things like “MUMMY! THE TREE IS FALLING!” and “WHY AREN’T YOU PICKING IT BACK UP?” and “THE WATER’S GOING EVERYWHERE!”.
I held the tree in my arms as though I were a dancer doing a dip, and yelled at her to go get towels for the water and a sheet to put down over the carpet so we could try to contain the wild shedding of needles.
She did both, incredibly quickly actually, and with an explosion of guttural swears, I heaved the tree out of the tree stand and threw it down onto the sheet.
After catching my breath, I went back to the trunk and peered at it for a few moments before realizing that there was a lower branch sticking out, preventing the trunk from settling fully into the tree stand.
“Aha!” I thought to myself. “I have found the problem and now I will fix it!”
and then “Fuck!” I thought to myself. “I already put the saw back into the garage.”
Our garage is a separate building, involving snow boots and a trip around the back of the house and keys and ugh. I’d be damned if I was going to do all that.
So, I guess this is how my six-year-old daughter came to be watching me, an allegedly strong, independent woman, hacking at the lower branches of our Christmas tree with a steak knife while muttering swears under my breath. She was keeping count until I announced that all swear jar collections would be put on hold until after the Christmas tree was put up.
(I may have actually said “this bastard of a Christmas tree”. I don’t know.)
The steak knife actually worked quite well and I managed to remove the offending branch and one more causing similar problems on the other side, and then I heaved it back upright and into the tree stand and repeated the process of Olive directing from across the room while I adjusted the bolts, now kneeling on wet carpet and covered in pine needles.
“You seem stressed, ” she called from across the room after a few minutes of unsuccessful adjustments.
“Why are you doing those big sighs?” she yelled a minute later.
It was still crooked.
I started to think that maybe it wasn’t the tree at all, but the shape of the tree (?) that was causing the problem. So, very hopefully, we began to cut the strings holding it all together. Olive started at the bottom and worked her way up, snip, snip, snip, snip, and gradually the branches began to relax and fan out around us.
Guys, this tree. This fucking tree is fully eight feet wide. Or at least it feels like it.
And, perhaps unsurprisingly, cutting the ropes didn’t help the tree look better. It looked immensely worse .
This is it. The new bane of my existence. My albatross. My nemesis.
I mean. WHAT.
I stood staring at its grotesque misshapen form for a few minutes, jaw clenched, before desperately diving back under the branches to see if I could adjust it some more.
I just… We can’t put presents under this thing! This squat, lopsided, ogre of a tree! But the trunk itself is straight! It’s just everything above that point that’s consumed by fucked-nutedness.
Olive was rapturous as she stared at it. She started draping her play necklaces over it and lovingly sweeping up the needles and topping up the water.
I, on the other hand, have removed myself to my bedroom and am having a full on adult temper tantrum because I HATE. THIS. TREE.
Tomorrow I will begin hacking at it with my trusty steak knife to try and even out the bottom. Will it get better? Maybe! Will it get worse? Oh probably much.
And look, I know Christmas tree aesthetics are a personal choice, and often a controversial one, but THIS, our tree from last year, is my kind of tree
Do you see? Do you see how light and airy and delicate it is? If you hate it, I totally get it because my ex-in-laws (out laws?) used to get these trees every year and I’d tease them about their sparse Charlie Brown Christmas trees.
But then I got my own one year and I loved it. How simple and woodsy it looked. How small it’s footprint was. How you can actually see the ornaments and the lights between the branches. There’s space between the boughs, it doesn’t feel so squat and heavy and dark and dense.
Anyway. If you need me, I’ll just be here. Sulking.
And to add insult to injury, Lizzie just sent me this: