This year, regrettably, I will drag no dying conifer into my living room. It wouldn’t make sense, as I won’t even be here this Christmas. But I do so with a touch of melancholy. For me, it’s never been about the thrill of watching a fir tree rot next to the television. It’s always been about the Christmas tree’s preparation process – the saw wielding and harvesting, the trips to the mountains and the entirely stressful yet somehow redeeming procedure of putting shiny dangling things on it.
I like ladders and saws. So it makes sense that I’m naturally drawn to Tannenbaum harvesting and decorating. Growing up, my weak arms couldn’t contribute much to the actually chopping or sawing, though I liked running around in the snowy mountains. My family obtained a tree harvesting permit every year and then joined up with a large party of friends at a selected base camp, complete with food, hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps beverages for the adults and hot chocolate for the kids.
When I got old enough to take the saw into my hand, I gained a greater understanding of holiday spirit: an anxious adolescent swinging around a razor sharp saw with a Douglas fir swaying overhead. The dragging part was never pleasant, of course, as it was strenuous and didn’t require sharp objects. But once it was back to the car and tied to the top, we were ready to distribute conifer needles throughout the house and scare the dog with vacuuming and bad Christmas music.
Decorating with my mom was grueling for a kid with no concept of organization or patience. There were strategies to be followed: no fragile ornaments within reach of infants; the nicest glass ones should be carefully and evenly distributed around the tree; the lights must be as prominent to outside passersby as to those sitting at the dinner table; and this must all be done with endless variations of Silent Night playing in the background. Our tree was always tall, but I was fine with wobbling at the top of the ladder with a breakable angel in my hand.
And I miss it. Once the tree was up, it was worth it for reasons I don’t understand. It just stands there and eventually withers, but it seems important. This year my living room will be vacant of a tree, and sadly when I do meet up with my family, the tree will already be in place, the preparation process done.
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