The stress-free Christmas tree erection

No holiday satisfies or disappoints quite like Christmas. In the Pacific Northwest, December is a dark, charmless month. This year, I announced November as scotch month and December, the month of brandy. The month of all things “ch,”—cheese, chocolate, champagne—a cup of cheer.

Getting the tree up is always harder than it needs to be. The place we normally get ours hadn’t got their shipment, and only had strange-looking trees. We tried a U-cut farm where you borrow a saw and trudge out on your own to cut one, but those had been picked over too. By the time we found one, the kids had also lobbied for a small tree for their rooms, and I was angry with Dawn about consenting, so we drove home wet and cold with three trees and the windows all fogged up, mom wedged in the back between the kids, needing to find a rest room.

We picked Sunday to get the tree over Saturday, even though Sunday was forecast for rain and Saturday would have made a lot more sense. But on Saturday, we argued and fought for most of the morning and agreed Charlotte’s behavior didn’t warrant getting a tree. I even threatened to get one without her, but that seemed too cruel, to deny her the expectation and memory of us all getting one together. By the late afternoon she’d apologized, but it wasn’t sincere. Mom said it wouldn’t be right to bring a tree into a house with such bad energy. And there was some spirituality in that, at least.

The problem with getting a tree when it’s raining is the tree comes into the house wet. That didn’t bother me, but Dawn worried it would be unsafe to hang the lights. Someone suggested we use a blow dryer to dry it. We put the lights up anyway, but then argued if they were outdoor, or indoor lights (and then I wondered how you even tell the difference). And I started to not care about getting shocked, anyway.

Mom and I went to the other room with the fire, but returned to the den with the others when it was time to decorate the tree. Charlotte seemed to really enjoy it, and I joked she wasn’t doing it right and moved a few ornaments an inch or two from their original spot, so as to not gang them together too tight.

And by the end of the night, all about the house was the soft glow of dioramas and happy figurines with twinkling lights, memories of the places we’d been, the gifts we’d been given, the memories waiting there, to be made once again.

The weather looked bad for the week, so I drove in each day. Sitting at the traffic light behind the wheel, I got a line for a poem and worked on it a bit when I got to the office. “When the world has lost all its wonder.” When the stars lose their luster, and you stop even seeing them twinkle. I was able to set up the bad feeling, but not able to pay it off at the end with any advice on what to do.

In the early morning I sat by the tree in the den and noticed one of the figurines was from the Wizard of Oz, the Cowardly Lion, so lifelike in his expression, the paws set against his cheeks with that look of worry. It was from that year Lily was really into the movie, and we bought a set of four. Dorothy was nearby too, but the others had gone missing. And sadly, I didn’t feel it the same as I used to.

Categories: Memoir, parenting, writing

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25 replies

  1. “And I started to not care about getting shocked, anyway.” Ah, the sweet relief… That’s a funny, telling line.
    Christmas is a hard time, really. I’m usually quite useless at the best of times and feeling even more so this year. Deb’s carrying the greater burden than usual, and I don’t know how to make her know how much I appreciate it or make it up to her. We all have shades of darkness to bring out the light, I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nicely put, the shades of darkness…the family tree. Ha! True, hard times and really I don’t have anything to complain about. Just that end-of-the-year seasonality thing, I think. Good thing we have some twinkly lights to offset it. Sometimes need more to get things in balance. Happy holidays mister! Thanks for liking my thing, here.


    • Your way of putting it makes dark and charmless sound kind of appealing.

      Don’t you guys consider a fake tree? Do you, like Ross, live in tree country and wouldn’t consider such a thing? It’s quick and easy although you sacrifice some satisfaction.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like it when the bad feeling is set up but not paid off with an antidote. And I have some bad feelings about the unnecessary stress and pressure to make Christmas perfect that I can’t seem to articulate right now. Might be the 20-odd years of working in retail talking. But brandy month, and all the “ch” treats, probably offset it all, eh?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “And I started to not care about getting shocked, anyway.” me, untangling the lights every Christmas😂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, perhaps it’s because Christmas is this thing we have to get through together that it actually ends in all those shared memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So great to hear from you and see your moniker pop up again on my phone Ms. Hem! Thanks for popping by, and hope you’re well. Here’s to new memories. Bill


  5. I’ve pretty much given up on trying to recreate the Christmas magic I felt as a child, or even as a young housewife with lots of energy and time to Martha shit up. Not having family to cater to gives one the freedom to chuck anything that doesn’t feel right anymore.
    Having said that, the lights, the family time and the sense of expectation the season gives, to kids especially, make for some comfort and joy in this comfortless month. Cheers to you and yours Bill, in whatever form you choose to take it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. All our holidays can be problematical – – the one with kids in macabre disguises, going door-to-door extorting candy, then we kill turkeys, then we kill trees, then the dead presidents (one shot, one bled to death by his doctors, etc. The absence of a sense of wonder might not be completely permanent , right? And even if the full-size thrill isn’t there anymore, you orchestrate the miniature scenes/soft glow/twinkling lights/etc. for the kids, and they’ll remember all this fondly. So the electric thrill of the holiday, that you had when you were a kid, isn’t sparking anymore, but you didn’t get electrocuted or set the tree on fire, either. And now you’re able to appreciate champagne and good cheese. Chicken and waffles.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. i think our magic changes right along with us, and the same experience is different for everyone. i still love christmas, but it is never what i expect, so i’ve given up expecting, just roll with it and see what happens.. happy ch month )

    Liked by 1 person

  8. sweet story…thanks for sharing. holiday blessings to you and your family, Bill! best,


    gregg s johnson cell: 206.399.3066 email:



  9. Well, you went from dismal bickering to Christmas cheer in just a few lines – pretty much sums up the whole season! I find it best to grab hold of those bright moments when I can, remember them when the mood has dipped. Such lovely, accurate descriptions for it all.
    I won’t be around for the next week – work is too crazy – but I just wanted to wish you and yours the best of Christmases. Have a warm, cosy, loving Christmas and all the best for a good 2019. x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lynn, wishing you as restful a holiday all things considered…thanks for letting me know. Picturing scraps of holly and greenery in shreds all about the floor..:hoping it’s bright despite, grateful for your friendship. Happy Christmas and cheers good friend!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, it was a little like that – holly and spruce and mistletoe … and shattered florists and grumpy, unreasonable customers! Hope you had a good one too, Bill

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ack, looking into the pit of humanity there, from a florist’s eyes. Sorry for that but you made it through another, and now hopefully the three of you can have some quiet, quality time together. We’re heading to a small town on an island ourselves, tomorrow.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It was fine really, but odd how usually pleasant people can become unreasonable when they turn into ‘customers’. And everyone wants stuff ‘now’ these days which doesn’t always work with flowers. Ho hum. Enjoy your days away – a a small town on an island sounds wonderful.

        Liked by 1 person

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