Monday, December 15, 2014

O ($h*#)! Christmas Tree

So, every year since I was born (at least, every year I can remember, and for those of you who know me, you know I can remember a really, REALLY long time back...) I have ventured into the woods with family to cut down a tree for Christmas. When Eric and I got married, this tradition continued, and, while we were living in Indiana, this meant driving up to Michigan for Thanksgiving with family, then going to the cottage for the weekend where we went to a Northern Michigan tree farm with the rest of our "Jet" friends and cut down trees.

Eric cutting the tree in Pike National Forest.
Since we have moved to Colorado, the adventure has continued. However, here, you can buy a permit for just $10 from the Forest Service, head into the woods, and cut nature's finest, freshest tree.

However, Pike National Forest is most definitely not a tree farm. What you find in the forest are not tree farm trees, that have been pruned and shaped.

Our first year, our tree was a little sparse on the branches, but straight and evenly spaced enough. Last year, our little scrap of a tree was missing more than a few branches, but we made it work.

This year's tree might kill me.

In fairness, it was the best tree we could find, and, in cutting it down, we thought it would be a unique addition to our home.

We didn't take into account that the 90 degree angle in the trunk of the tree would cause some significant balance issues. At the time, I was more concerned with getting the rabbit fur out of the top of the tree, and trying hard not to think about how the rabbit fur got there, since, to the best of my understanding, rabbits don't climb trees, and don't spontanously lose large chunks of fur. And really, the tree was standing in the woods, right? Why wouldn't it stand at home?


We got the tree home, shook it out, removed the fur (and the bird poop), and stuck it in the stand, where it fell over in the driveway. Undeterred, we added shims and blocks of wood to the stand to brace the tree.

It leaned WAY to the left.

The tree before lights.
Check out the bend in the trunk.
We adjusted the anchors. They poked through the wooden blocks. We got new blocks. We readjusted. We added a rock to the base. We brought the tree into the house.
It leaned WAY to the right.

Repeat process. Repeat process three times. Finally, the tree was relatively straight, and, as insurance, I got out some fishing line and anchored that sucker to the wall with a hook and the line.

I put up the lights. I sent Eric to the store for more lights, because, despite what we realized was a rather large gap between the top of the tree and the bottom (why didn't we notice that before?), we didn't have enough strings. I wrestled with the tree to get the snowflake on top. I added ornaments.

Poof. Done. Big sigh. We added water, and, because I read somewhere that trees like to have more than just water, I added some pop to the mix - flat, leftover pop from a party we had.

Then, last night, I came downstairs. Eric had gone to bed early because he had been up super-early on a rare December tornado chase.

The tree is at a 45 degree angle to the left.The lowest branches are propping it up from the ground.


I grab the tree, and try to adjust the pins in the base. I realize that the pins have gone completely through the wood blocks we have stabilizing the tree.

I can fix this. I can do this without having to wake up Eric, right? How do I fix this? I need something to prevent the pins from poking through the blocks. Pennies. I can use pennies.

Prop the tree, race into the kitchen, open up the piggy bank, grab some change. Race back to the tree, hang on, and, one handed try to insert a penny between the block and the pin. Penny falls into the water. Reach down into the water and remember...


The water is sticky. And not just with any pop. No, I, in my delusion, thought that it was somehow a good idea to pour Faygo Redpop into the base of the tree. For those of you not from Detroit, Faygo is a local brand, made in Michigan. Redpop was our childhood drink of choice (that or Rock 'n Rye), that was sugar-loaded, the color of a fire engine, and able to put a six-week dye on skin. And now, said pop was sitting in the base of my precariously leaning Christmas tree on top of my beige carpet.

What. was. I. thinking?!?!

It was at this point I may have started swearing. This was obviously not a great night for anything related to Christmas, as evidenced an hour before by the pan of smoking, char-broiled gingerbread men I ran out of the kitchen, barefoot onto the back deck, and launched, pan included, into the yard, before opening the windows, turning on the fans and turning off the smoke detectors. Apparently putting two cookie trays into the oven at the same time creates some sort of heat shield reflector that perfectly bakes the upper tray of cookies while sending the ginger-men in the lower pan into the 4th level of Dante's Inferno.

So, holding the tree with one hand, head shoved against some lower branches, I frantically claw and twist at this tree, trying to get it to stand upright, while not spilling the carpet-deadly concoction out of the base. In the process, all of the change ends up at the bottom of the soda-pool, and at various points, a pair of snowmen, a hobby-horse, and a bear-in-a-stocking go flying like they've been bounced off a trampoline. Amazingly, nothing gets broken.

After twenty minutes of shifting and sloshing, I realize that the tree is NOT cooperating. It insists on leaning to the left, to the right, or, most scarily, way far forward. I realize I need reinforcement. I prop the tree to the left, where it comes to rest at an angle conducive for making the bells on the branches chime, but not giving me a feeling of safety. I race to the garage to find the fishing line. I scramble around the garage, trying to figure out where Eric might keep the line. This takes approximately 9,000 hours and several half-prayers to Baby Jesus and St. Nikolaus. No, I'm not Catholic or Orthodox, but Jesus needed hear my petition of forgiveness for all the mental cursing I was doing, and St. Nikolaus might be slightly invested in keeping the tree from falling over whilst I conducted my manhunt, er, fish hunt, in the garage. Finally, I find the fishing line, and BONUS, is the marlin-strength stuff Eric bought to string up the dead bodies over the driveway at Halloween. Yes, I really did just say that, and no, I'm not going into Halloween-detail right now.

I race back into the house, and, saints-be-praised (nope, not Irish either), the tree is still upright. I creep around to the backside of the tree, and stick a second hook into the wall. I tie the fishing line around the upper section of the tree, and secure that puppy to the wall. Tighten the hook, and...

Well, not quite straight, but hopefully more secure. I test my set-up, and then spend 30 minutes sitting next to the tree, waiting to see if it will slide, scootch, tip, or otherwise force a middle of the night call to AAA Masterclean.

Pooped, and fairly confident that I have, in fact, inhaled several pine needles, I head for bed, where I restlessly listen for the tinkling of breaking glass all night long. Fortunately, that sound never came.

I informed the tree this morning that it will receive nothing else to drink until it is entirely finished with what is currently in it's stand. As I write this, I'm drawn to the fact that I stuck those hooks directly into the wall without the benefit of drywall anchors.

Dear St. Nikolaus... if you'll only hold that tree up until I get home...

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