• 39°

O Christmas tree

As long as I can remember, a real Christmas tree has been part of my family’s holiday celebrations. Some years we cut down our own, some years we bought it pre-cut — but it was never a plastic tree out of a box.

My great-grandparents, where the family gathered on Christmas Eve when I was child, almost always had a tree cut from their property. It was usually a cedar, if memory serves, and never shaped much like a Christmas tree. It was always wild and wide and unruly. But it served us well.

Once I was old enough to make my own choice regarding Christmas greenery, I always chose a real tree.  Even in college when cash was so tight that Christmas dinner consisted of ramen noodles, I still found a way to purchase a real tree.

It’s the tradition my children have grown to know and love. But after much consternation, I thought this year was going to be the Christmas that tradition stopped. I was tired of dragging 10-foot trees into the house. I was tired of sweeping needles and wiping sap off my hands and watering the thing. I vowed this year to go plastic. I was ready to give up on tradition.

But my children had other ideas. My oldest son protested the fake greenery and instead offered to procure a real tree himself. So I let him.

He picked a relatively straight cedar that stood at least 30 feet and went to chopping. It took maybe 15 minutes to drop it. He then cut the top 14-15 feet out of it and we hauled it inside.

Lying on the ground in the yard, the tree didn’t look all that tall. But once inside, the tree’s Clark Griswold-ness became apparent. We managed to get it upright after a few hours of sweating and probably a little swearing.

My wife, who had been supportive of the plan up to this point, came home to what looks more like a tree in our living room than a Christmas tree. It is somewhat triangular shaped, though the top isn’t much narrower than the bottom. If it were not covered in lights and balls, it would have a hard time convincing anyone of its Christmas intentions.

The fact that spiders and katydids and grasshoppers came crawling out of the thing once we got it inside did not help its “un-Christmas” appearance. We awoke the morning after erecting it to find spider webs connecting its branches to our stairway. Grasshoppers were in the kitchen. Katydids clung to the windows. Who knows what other critters crawled from its limbs that we haven’t found yet.

But from a distance — it’s too tall to take in up close — it passes for a Christmas tree. It drinks more water than we have time to give it — several gallons a day. It smells oddly musty and not very Christmas-y. It also has gaping holes where there wasn’t a single branch to hang an ornament from. And the backside of it is complete bare (thankfully it’s in a corner where no one can see its back side). It’s a Charlie Brown tree, only bigger.

But it’s our tree. It’s a tree all five children will remember when they are grown and trying to decide if they should go real or fake. It’s a tree they will enjoy so much they will vow to never go plastic.

Maybe we will buy a fake tree next year, but I doubt it. We have a new tradition — spiders and all.

Contact publisher Luke Horton at luke.horton@dailyleader.com