Copyright 1998 Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved
A Perfect Tree? Not For Me!
Crank's Comment: It's our turn to host the family Christmas Eve dinner (we get
the "odd" years) and the living room is still a construction zone. We have a few days to
wrangle it into some sort of acceptable condition and decorate it for the holiday. This
Crank is one of my earliest; I think it's worth repeating, being so seasonal and all. I hope
those of you who have read it before will think so, too.
Somewhere in a dusty shoebox there is a faded photograph of myself at age seven,
dressed in pajamas with the feet built in, feigning surprise at the pile of gifts under a
Christmas tree. Cute, but ordinary. The really cool thing about this photo is that the tree
must be the rattiest, scrawniest, ugliest Christmas tree ever to have stood in any living
room, anytime, anywhere. Unfortunately, you can't buy trees like that anymore.
I hate shopping for Christmas trees. Modern farm-raised trees are green cone-
shaped pipe cleaners, trimmed and pruned and tortured into some marketing genius' idea
of the "perfect" shape for a Christmas tree. They have no soul, no character, no
individuality. Worse, they have no gaps.
Gaps are essential. Without gaps, a Christmas tree is impossible to decorate.
Sure, most people know some brave, manly fellow who is willing to risk getting
scratched and poked by pine needles while he forcibly rams the lighting wires deep into
the thick greenery, but then what? You have a green cone that lights up, wow. The real
problems come when you try to put on the ornaments, garland, and tinsel.
My mother taught me to put the heavier ornaments inside the tree near the trunk,
where the branches are thicker and can support the weight. The lighter ornaments go
farther out on the branch, but still hooked behind a nub so they can't slide off. All the
ornaments should have room beneath them to hang freely. But these days the interior of
the tree is too dense to allow the placement of any inboard ornaments, so regardless of
weight they all end up perilously hooked to the tips of the branches, leaving the center of
the tree devoid of sparkle. They all hang crookedly, pushed out at an angle by the branch
below, because any stray twig that had the nerve to extend outboard of its downstairs
neighbor was lopped of at the farm before the tree was bagged, tagged, and trucked to the
Garland and tinsel are even more difficult to hang on a "perfect" Christmas tree.
Times past, you could drape the garland in graceful swags from branch tip to branch tip;
now you're lucky if you can plaster it to the outside of the cone in a fairly even spiral.
Tinsel is meant to simulate icicles and should hang straight down from the ends of the
branches, but it can't, because there is no empty space below any branch. You end up
with a tinsel tangle that looks like the work of some drug-crazed psychedelic spider
instead of the delicate work of the Icicle Fairy (yes, the Icicle Fairy, Jack Frost's cousin).
This year I will seek out the ugliest, crookedest, most uneven Christmas tree on
the lot. I will haggle with the tree guy and negotiate a hefty discount on the price,
because both he and I know that nobody else is going to buy this imperfect tree. Then I
will take my ugly tree home, prune away at least every other branch, and decorate it in a
way that allows the ornaments to obey the laws of gravity by hanging straight down. My
garland will drape; my tinsel will flutter freely. My tree will look like the tree I had when
I was seven, which, I am sure, seemed beautiful at the time.
If any of you have ever had trouble decorating a Christmas cone, please join with
me in protest by boycotting trees of geometric precision, unnatural fullness, and
regimented mass-market sameness. Buy an ugly tree, a homely individual that gives you
space to hang your heirloom ornaments where the cat can't reach them. Get a tree with
gaps, accept the challenge of decorating it, and prove that beauty is not the same thing as
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