That Damn Tree

At some point my mom and stepdad started referring to the Christmas tree as “that damn tree” because of the frustration that always ensued when my step-dad—great with a scalpel but not as much with a screwdriver—tried to put the tree into the stand. Inevitably the trunk was crooked and misshapen, the hole of the stand was too small, and the screws meant to tighten into the trunk to hold it steady and upright wouldn’t turn. Even after getting all that settled, the tree often leaned precariously and required multiple adjustments.

To make it worse, the first few years after we moved from Texas to Colorado and started venturing out into the woods with friends to cut our own tree, I was openly dismayed by the change from the very expensive and thickly-branched tree-lot specimens we had previously purchased compared to the spindly, sparsely branched wild “Charlie Brown” ones we dragged home from the woods. (To be totally honest, I think I cried at the sight of it the first year we did this.) Don’t get me wrong. I did love stomping around in the snow, searching for a tree and the actual cutting but, once viewed inside, it took a bit of getting used to.

I have a fake tree now—avoiding the expense, mess and annual tree-killing a live tree requires. Not to mention the watering, needles on the carpet and the supposed fire danger. Putting it up is relatively easy but I have to sheepishly admit I still think of it as that damn tree. It makes me feel vastly unsentimental and a bit Grinch-ish to confess to this but I’m just over it. I’m over the Christmas tree. I’d be fine with little mini-tree, a few lights, candles, a few wooden Santas, an angel or two and calling it good.

I’m pretty sure the rest of my family won’t stand for this so I’ll have to wait a few more years until I no longer have kids at home. Of course, I’m hoping they’ll still come home for Christmas but maybe by then I’ll be brave enough to break with tradition.

I suppose I could go on Christmas tree strike, offer to do all the other Christmasy things I enjoy and let whoever is willing wrestle the thing out of the basement closet, up the stairs and into the living room where the furniture then needs to be rearranged to make space for it take care of it. Which is pretty much how it’s going because so far no one has brought it upstairs and I’m not going to. A sort of holiday line in the sand.

Here’s another thing I’m over. Turkey. Honestly, it’s just not interesting anymore. Maybe I’ve been responsible for roasting too many turkeys over the years and I’d feel differently if the turkey were coming from someone else’s kitchen. But there you have it.

There’s far too much of it no matter how small the bird I start out with and really, it just isn’t that good. Turkey sandwiches and leftover turkey and stuffing are fine for a few days. But there always seems to be far more than a few day’s worth. Please do not suggest I boil a gigantic turkey carcass to make turkey soup. Again—I’ve done this more times than I can count and I’m done with it. I’m all for homemade but I’m not The Pioneer Woman. I won’t be spending two days making turkey stock or canning my own green beans. There are some things I find the grocery store to be quite adequate for. I know homemade stock is supposed to be the culinary height but it’s just not worth it to me.

There are some things I do look forward to this season. I love being out at night and seeing lights on the trees and on houses. I like their reminders that this season of darkness is headed back toward the season of light. I like snowy days when I can stay inside in front of the fire, sip tea and listen to holiday music.

For many years, my family read two Christmas stories out loud: Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory and A Cajun Night Before Christmas by Trosclair, Ed. Howard Jacobs. Capote’s story is sweet, a memory of Christmases he spent with a distant cousin he lived with during his childhood. Though terribly poor, the rituals they created together are full of meaning and love. His writing of the story and use of language is beautiful. A Cajun Night Before Christmas is just lots of fun and reminds me of one of the first Christmases my husband and I spent together in New Orleans.

There are, of course, foods I DO look forward to. The box of homemade goodies my dad and stepmom send is impatiently awaited each year—roasted pecans, cheese wafers, and fruitcake cookies. The cookies sound gross, I know. But when you taste one, you’ll be begging for more. And true confessions here, I don’t share. I mean, I have to share them with my family but I don’t offer them to guests. They’re too precious. We have shrimp and grits for Christmas Eve dinner to honor my southern heritage. Christmas breakfast of fruit and cottage cheese crepes comes from my husband’s holiday tradition.

Photo by Dmitry Beyer on Unsplash

Chris ChandlerComment