The perfect, skinny Christmas tree

Published 8:17 am Friday, December 2, 2022

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The one time a year that our I-Hop (what else can I name our A-frame cabin?) looks appropriate with its Swiss angles is Christmas. Then our cramped abode is transformed into something of a chalet.


Not that we can ‘ski out’ of the front door. Not in the foothills of South Carolina. We might have a bit of a downhill start toward the mailbox, but that’s about it.

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Yet we are surrounded by conifers and deep woods behind the house which means armfuls of pine and cedar arranged along the top of the mantlepiece, and if I’m feeling particularly festive (depending on if there’s still that half-empty bottle of Bailey’s in the fridge), I might even attempt a garland of greenery to wind along the banister. It smells heavenly. The Bailey’s, I mean.


Then there is the tree. Paul and I are still adamant about putting up a live tree and this proves to be an annual challenge. Once the house has been festooned with decorations and antler-wearing dogs, there is but one place for a tree to go: tucked into the corner between the staircase and the landing, just to the left of the china cabinet. Which means we need a really skinny tree.


“What about this one?” Paul begins our search optimistically, holding the top of a lush six-footer for my inspection outside a garden center.


“Way too full,” I replied. “There’s no way we could get past that thing when we go upstairs.”


“It’s the skinniest one here.” he countered.


“Then we’ve got to go somewhere else.”


It was the same story at our next stop.


“They make fake, ’skinny’ Christmas trees, you know…” the morose teenager who was clearly seasonally employed offered after we rejected each one he brought over.


I stared him down. “Certainly not.” He shrugged and left to help another couple with evidently a far larger house.


“We need a Charlie Brown tree,” Paul commented as we drove to the grocery store—our last hope—which was selling a few trees leaning against the building.


“We need a tree that’s built like me,” I said.


“Not easy,” he said. “I don’t think Fraser firs have that long an inseam.”


But find it we did in all its glory: a six-and-a-half foot Fraser with branches as short as dinosaur arms, spindly yet freshly cut.


“It’s perfect!” I exclaimed, ignoring the pitying glances of other shoppers who had passed on our tree owing to its anemic appearance. “Who wants a big, bushy tree anyway?” I gave them a somewhat loud, parting shot. “You’ll be vacuuming needles till Easter.”


Our tree rode triumphantly home in the bed of the truck and now stands tucked into the staircase landing, draped from head to toe in lights and baubles. Enamored, we step back, having hung the last ornament, saying as we do each year, “This is the most beautiful tree we’ve ever had!”


Until, as also happens each year, the cats pull it down.