I’ve never been fond of artificial Christmas trees. Actually, in my younger days, I thought they were hideous. I wondered if the folks who put up fake trees in their homes had sad childhoods. Didn’t they understand that the house was supposed to smell of pine? Did they not watch A Charlie Brown Christmas? You know, the one where he walks through the tree lot filled with pink, aluminum Christmas trees, but manages to find a small, real tree in their midst. I felt sorry for people who had artificial Christmas trees. I felt like they just didn't get it.
I've had a real Christmas tree every year for the past 30 years. I’ve stood in the cold night air on Christmas tree lots, pinching the tips of countless pine branches to make sure they were sticky with sap. I've sniffed every tree in the lot to see which one smelled the most piney. I've dragged my husband to five different lots in one night to find the freshest tree. I've even removed all of the decorations from a tree that died before Christmas day, bought a new tree, and then placed all of the decorations back onto the new tree.
But yesterday, I told my husband that I was thinking about getting an artificial tree this year. This was not an easy decision. I agonized over it for months.
"I hate artificial trees," he said.
Both of our kids were home, visiting from college. So, I tried the idea out on our son.
“What do you think about an artificial tree?” I asked him. “I think it's better not to have a tree at all, instead of getting a fake one,” he said.I tried the idea out on our daughter. I think she's figured out my midlife hormones and state of mind, because she said, “Whatever you want to do is the best choice, mom!”
I reminded my husband about his bad back. I reminded him of all of those years of strapping the tree to the top of the car, carrying it into the house, and TRYING TO GET IT STRAIGHT IN THE STAND. I hadn't even begun to remind him of how long we spend tangled up in lights, when he said, "Let’s go buy a fake tree."
I struck up a conversation with a woman my age in the fake Christmas tree section of the store, an angel on aisle 5. I was feeling anxious and shameful and fake, so I made sure to mention that this was my first artificial Christmas tree EVER. She sighed, and with kindness, she told me that she understood, that it was her first time too, a few years ago, and that well, at our age, an artificial tree is just easier.
One of the great things about the sixth decade is that we allow ourselves to do things for simple reasons. Because it's fun. Because it's true. Because it's time. Because it is less stressful.
My husband and I stuffed our new fake tree in the trunk of our car (it came in three easy-to- assemble pieces). As I was putting the last piece in, two young boys walked by with their father, another angel, this time staked out in the parking lot. “Look!” he said to his sons. "That lady has so much Christmas spirit that she is putting a Christmas tree in her car!” The boys giggled and their eyes sparkled and I felt calm and happy and real. On our drive home, we stopped by another store, and I bought a pine scented candle.
Our house smells great and our tree looks real. I'm actually quite fond of it. I think Charlie Brown would approve.