“Does that look right?” he asked me from under our Christmas tree.
I let go of the trunk for a moment, and it swayed slightly, tilting a little to the right. I stepped back and looked at it.
“No, I think it’s tilting to the right. It did that after I let go,” I replied sullenly. Attempt number 43 to get our Christmas tree straight. Here we go again.
“Hold on to it one more time,” he instructed, and I felt him twisting and tweaking the base of the tree. It straightened. Then, I heard a SNAP!
“Dang,” he mumbled to himself. “One of these years I’ll get myself a new one of these bases.”
“Sweetie, do you want help down there?” I offered.
“Well, yeah, but I’m afraid if you come down here too, then the tree will tip.”
“I’m sure we’ll be fine,” I assured my boyfriend, and joined him on the floor, the two of us lying on our stomachs underneath the tree to try to get the thing secured.
Finally, after lifting, tweaking, tilting, tightening, we got it standing upright.
“I think we got it,” he commented, realizing it was almost too good to be true. An hour later, we finally had the thing standing up like a proper Christmas tree should.
“Wow!” I exclaimed. “It looks so good! Look how tall it is!” It really was. It was a huge tree.
A turned his back for a moment to fix some of the decorative items on shelves around our Christmas tree’s location that had been shifted or knocked over in our desperate attempt to get our tree upright, and I took a seat on the couch on the other side of the room to observe our handiwork. It wasn’t decorated yet, of course, but the fact we got it standing up straight had been a task unto itself, and I was thrilled.
We had the soundtrack to Elf playing, and the upbeat, merry holiday mood felt just right. Lights and ornaments were next!
Then, I watched in horror, almost as though the world had slowed and the tree began to suddenly tilt forward, stop, tilt forward a little more, and stop, tilt forward once more… I jumped to my feet. “Oh N-” was all I had time to exclaim when the entire tree had fallen forward to the ground.
A whipped around. “What happened???” He cried.
“It just fell,” I replied disheartened. The earth tilting on its axis had simply been too much for the tree we’d so carefully picked out in love at our local Costco just hours earlier. Sadness swept over my soul. Would we ever decorate our tree? (Yes, that was overdramatized for the purpose of this blog. I was actually a little frustrated and amused at the same time.)
“That’s okay,” He sighed, already lifting the tree upright again, looking at the pine needles on the floor with dismay, and crawling on his hands and knees to get below the tree while I held it in place. He got clippers this time, and we clipped off parts of the tree that had previously kept us from better tightening it and keeping it in place the first time.
It was easier this time, to get it upright and looking fairly straight. It only took three attempts and about twenty minutes as opposed to our previous hour with many other attempts. This time, it seemed sturdier and more balanced than ever, so we happily whipped out our ornament box and began our decorating process.
A told me the story behind each of his handful of personal ornaments. It was the first time we’d picked out and decorated a tree together even though it was our second year dating. To be honest, I don’t even remember our first Christmas tree together. I think he may have decorated it on his own. Anyway, it was a special time where we were able to connect and I got to learn more about him, his family, and his past relationships. It was pleasant, and when it was all said and done, the tree looked…unique.
In my family, we’ve had two kinds of trees throughout the years: the personal trees, and the commercial trees.
The personal trees have the handmade ornaments my brother and I made in kindergarten along with the ornaments we made up until our high school years. We have gifts folks gave my parents, such as “Happy First Anniversary” or “First Christmas in Your New Home” or “Baby girl!” or “Baby boy!” We have so many that they take up a giant box and we can never put them all on. They have to be rotated from year to year. Let’s just say on our personal tree, it looks a little…chaotic…but for us, it’s chocked full of meaning.
The commercial tree is carefully selected. The lights are strung around it in an even manner; color-coordinated generic ornaments are purchased, red and gold or blue and silver color schemes, generally. The ornaments are then hung so they look evenly distributed and the angel on top of the tree is carefully positioned so she is perfectly vertical.
And, of course, we have a fake tree, so we avoid the whole fire-risk, pine-needle, go pick a tree thing.
So creating a tree with A for the first time was a unique experience, as you can tell. It was a real tree, to begin with, which automatically made it foreign to me. It fell over in the process of getting it balanced. I’d never heard the stories of any of his ornaments, so everything was new, rather than sentimental, and to be honest, I’d never seen somebody put so many freakin’ lights on a Christmas tree before. I think we put ten strands on his tree, and I’m pretty sure that some of those lights were the outdoor ones that get really hot. I envisioned our tree going up in flames.
Once it was decorated though, and I stood there with him behind me, his hands around my waist, and his chin resting on my head, both of us admiring our creation with the Christmas music playing in the background, I was happy with it. We’d made a memory. Our first real Christmas tree decorating memory.
Then, before our very eyes, the tree tilted forward, our ten strands of lights went dark as they were yanked and unplugged from the wall, and with the crashing sounds of ornaments, it fell to the floor.
He moved away from me, and both of us stood side by side in silence and horror at sight of the tree, our mouths gaping.
He quietly knelt to the floor. He looked like an orphaned child weeping at the grave of a deceased parent. He was scooping up needles in a desperate attempt to put the tree back together. Maybe, by picking up the needles, he thought he could reverse time. I’m not exactly sure what he thought he’d accomplish by picking up a palm-full of needles in a room filled with needles, but I laughed.
I laughed so hard that I bent at the waist and held my stomach. Tears filled my eyes I was laughing so hard.
A’s head whipped around at the sound of my unexpected (and apparently unwelcomed) laughter.
“Why are you laughing?” he asked me flatly
“Look at it! Stand up and look at it, A!” I had tears streaming down my face, and I was making that wheezing, “I-can’t-make-a-noise” laugh.
He stepped back and looked at it, and soon, he too was chuckling beside me.
We picked up our tree, inserted it into the base, trimmed some more of the lowest branches, got it straightened, and plugged the lights back in.
It was more secure in the base that it had ever been at that moment (we made sure of that), and we picked up fallen ornaments, checking for broken pieces (surprisingly, I think only one bit the dust), and then we reattached them to their proper places on the branches.
Finally, the tree was truly complete, and we stepped back once more to admire our work. This time, we sat on the couch across from it, the only lights in the room coming from the tree, and we both sighed.
“Wow,” he commented.
“Wow,” I replied, not sure if his wow was in reference to the beauty of our very well-lit tree or the ordeal we’d just gone through to get that tree standing up straight. I’m pretty sure his was a beauty wow and mine was a “what the heck” wow. Either way, that tree wowed us.
So this year, we put on our battle faces as we decided to decorate our tree. Last night, his parents swung by the house with their truck, picking and bringing the tree over to us saving us a car-truck switch up and a bunch of unnecessary drives to and fro.
They helped us get it into our now broken Christmas tree base (we still haven’t picked out a new one yet), and in about thirty minutes, we had it well-secured, and upright.
The four of us went out to dinner, and then A and I decorated the tree upon the return home.
I am proud to report: there were no falling Christmas trees this year. We may have been off to a rocky start last time, robbed of our beginners luck, but we pulled it together this Christmas season!