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Jack vs. The Tree

I love decorating for Christmas. I am totally the person who litters her house with ceramic Santas and Advent calendars and scented pinecones. I have garlands and Santa hats and nutcrackers, and this year I cleared out a shelf for Jack's Little People nativity scene. A fresh tree and its piney scent is very important to the Christmas Aura I have going on. People are supposed to walk into my house and be knocked dead by two smells: the tree and the Christmas cookies baking in my oven. Because, in my head, I am Martha Stewart filming a Christmas special.

My parents bought a fake tree a couple years ago and it was downright Un-Christmas-Like. Even if it's so smothered in ornaments you can't see the branches, it still exudes Fakeness – like my grandmother's artificial tree with its implausibly perfect shape, or department store Christmas trees with their hideous ornaments and color themes. You can just TELL. And isn't a real tree part of the Spirit of Christmas? (Don't argue with me. It is.)

It took me a while to figure out where to put our tree this year, being that my small living room is littered with trucks and xylophones and foam footballs and board books, all things that weren't here last year. I finally moved the toy shelf to a different corner of the room and decided we'd just get a tall, skinny tree to fit into the chunk of space near the end of the couch. No problem. Until Jack walked by and kicked the toy bus near my feet, sending it shooting across the room straight into the spot I cleared for the tree.

I looked at my increasingly destructive son, and panic set in. What was I thinking? A real tree? The kind whose needles flutter off at the slightest movement of a branch? The kind that stands in a bowl of WATER? Around my TODDLER?

I closed my eyes to visualize the next four weeks and all I saw was my hefty post-partum self on all fours, picking pine needles out of every crevice and corner. Or cleaning up presents sitting in puddles. Or righting a broken and maligned tree that had been knocked over by an overzealous future soccer pro. I began to wonder if I was a bit high on my imaginary tree fumes.

And so I did something I swore I would never ever do: I bought a fake Christmas tree. For a split second I considered a pink tinsel tree to go on top of the dining room table, but talk about Un-Christmas-Like. We picked out a tall skinny tree that exuded the least amount of Fake. It wasn't the nicest one (the nicest one would require selling a kidney or two) or the prettiest one, but it would hold up against the powers of a 19-month-old. We hoped.

It's been up for a few days and, though I hate to say so, it may be warming to my snow-and-tinsel covered heart. For one thing, when we hauled it up the stairs and set it in place, there were no needles and broken branches to clean up. It took five minutes to put together. The lights were already wrapped around the tree and, when you are the only person in your household who decorates the tree (the other person with tree-decorating capabilities thinks his job is over when he puts it in the stand), not having to mess with lights is no small thing.

In the matter of Jack vs. The Tree, so far The Tree is winning. The breakable ornaments are out of his reach and the branches hold fantastically well against the pulling and groping and swatting. Just a few more days, and the Christmas tree will be old news for Jack. He'll move on to yanking the stockings off the mantel, and I'll have made 40 dozen Christmas cookies in the time it would have taken me to vacuum the trail of pine needles in his wake.

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