The house looked like a crime scene as I walked in. Broken ornaments were strewn across the floor. Pine needles were everywhere. The Christmas tree lay in a heap in the corner, surrounded by a puddle of water. My presents sat on the desk nearby, wrapping paper warped from the spill.
As I soon learned, it was the second time the tree had fallen over that morning — and not the last, either. In truth, we should have known better. The warning signs were there all along.
It was far bigger than any Christmas tree needed to be: not tall — although it was tall — but fat. The branches stretched out longer than NBA players’ arms. It was also unmistakably crooked. My dad and I argued about which way was upright as he fiddled with the tree stand, fingers and forearms becoming coated in sap, and I attempted to hold the tree ‘straight’, one arm plunged deep into the branches, grasping desperately at the trunk. With each direction he gave from below the tree, I found myself holding the trunk at improbable angles, bewildered that it could possibly look straight from below. Truth be told, it didn’t look straight from anywhere, but it would have to do.
We set about decorating, and by the time we were done, a reasonable facsimile of a Christmas tree stood before us. It had lights and ornaments, and there was room for presents underneath. In a utilitarian sense, it ticked all the boxes.
It lasted less than a week. As I pieced together later, my parents heard the first crash Friday morning as they were getting ready for work. They hurried to fix the tree — a lonely piece of toast left forgotten in the toaster in the process — and headed out the door. I arrived home less than four hours later to discover the aftermath of the second fall. When I tried to fix it by myself, it toppled over again.
The solution, as my dad decided, was to shorten the tree. If it wasn’t so top-heavy, it wouldn’t be so prone to falling over. We lugged it outside, and within minutes, he took a foot off the bottom — clipping off branches along the way to make a “new” trunk. Satisfied, we brought it back inside, only to discover that it still toppled over. This was becoming the tree from hell.
Another trip outside followed, and soon enough, another foot came off the tree. Previously a healthy seven-footer, it now stood below eye level, and a good lower third of the tree’s branches lay in a heap by the garage. We couldn’t help but laugh. It was still noticeably crooked and a mere fraction of its former self, but mercifully, it stood. We propped it up on an end table and crossed our fingers that it wouldn’t fall over again.
It’s been two days since then. The tree still stands. Some ornaments were forced into retirement, but we’ve redecorated. It may be the ugliest tree we’ve had, but you know what? When the the lights are dimmed, the music’s playing, and the tree’s lights twinkle, it sure feels like Christmas to me.