Monday, January 5, 2009

Real or Fake? The Eternal Debate

I say this every year, "I think we're going to get a fake Christmas tree next year". It's not that I really want a fake tree. "Embarrassing" is not the right word, but to me there is something about fake trees that admits defeat; like taking the easy route or the road most travelled. But there are certain things about real trees that are detracting from my overall satisfaction with the Christmas tree experience.

Our living room has a 20' ceiling, so we aim for a minimum tree height of nine feet. We also like noble firs because of their sturdy and more spaced branches. Apparently, some type of metamorphosis takes place during the period in which a noble grows from eight to nine feet in which the trunk doubles in size and the diameter improves by three feet or so. The nine footers are too much to handle. Last Christmas I had to trim the trunk vertically to remove some girth so that it could fit in my tree stand. The nine footers are too wide to fit through my door, whose frame moulding bears many scars from Christmas trees past. Besides that the nine footers are incredibly awkward to balance in the stand and carry into the house by myself (no help for Ducheznee. I'm growing some help, but he's not quite even one year old yet). A few years ago we started having the trees baled at the tree farm which helped quite a bit in the door scratching department. I could also hoist the trees onto my shoulder which made them easier to manage. 

The problems with baling, however, are many. When the string is released, a heavy shower of needles rains down onto the living room floor. Additionally, the weight shift can be so significant that the tree is no longer balanced in the stand. I long ago replaced the break-your-fingers hand-turn tightening screws in my stand with standard hex head carriage bolts so that I could quickly loosen and tighten them with my cordless drill. This was invention born out of necessity; necessity of sparing bruises on my fingers and scraping on my knuckles from the stock tightening screws.

The other MAJOR problem with baling is when it comes time to remove the tree. Like the slim fox that sneaks through a hole in the fence into the chicken pen to feast and finds he is too fat to escape via the same route, the unbaled Christmas tree can no longer pass through the doorway. I have to get my loppers and limb the tree inside the living room. Of course this makes another huge mess and means multiple trips between the living room and the burn pile where the Christmas tree will eventually embark on its journey to that great tree farm in the sky.

All of that I could live with. My wisdom and experience has led to satisfactory solutions. But the one aspect in which a real tree will never beat a modern artificial tree is lighting. I loathe putting the lights on the tree. Strings that worked fine a year prior suddenly do not light up. It takes hours to wrap the lights around each branch while trying to conceal the cord and get even coverage. I wind up with pitch stains on my hands and scratches on my arms. Worse still is taking the lights off of the tree. The don't ever come off in reverse of how I put them on just four weeks earlier. In wrapping the branches, I somehow am able to tie complex Boy Scout knots throughout the tree. 

A big, nine foot tree with 1,400 preinstalled lights, no needle shedding, no trunk the size of a redwood, no spiders living in it that will one-by-one relocate to our 20' ceiling, and no watering, all sound very appealing to me.

I think I have Sara sold on the idea. I just need to convince myself.

I love taking the girls out to pick out our tree at a muddy tree farm. I love their little rubber boots. I love putting them on my shoulders so they can see how tall the trees are. I love the smell of a real tree and the velvety-soft needles. 

I talked myself out of it for another year. We bought a pre-cut noble from a lot. It was maybe eight feet tall. It had a trunk the size of my ankle. It lost very few needles. It was not baled, but fit nicely through my door just the same. I could carry it with one hand and open the door myself with the other. Theoretically it should also exit the same way. It fit better in our room - we didn't have to rearrange furniture at all. Also, we have not seen a single spider on our ceiling. I still didn't like putting the lights on, but since the tree was smaller I didn't need quite as many strings, nor did it take as long.

If we do end up with a fake tree, I'm thinking we'll still go cut a smaller, real tree for the kids. That might allow for the best of both worlds. Then Madison could put on her colored lights on her own tree since she doesn't like our white ones.

I'm glad I don't have to decide this for another year.

1 comment:

Leslee said...

You are GREAT. I love this. We are still debating about the same thing, only we decided on no tree this year. It wasn't too bad, especially since we got to you to your house and see your beautiful tree for Christmas Eve. :-)