Sunday, November 27, 2016

O Christmas Tree—Real or Fake?

I’ve always had a fresh Christmas tree. Some years I’ve put up three of them. I’m not counting the little artificial trees for my cats. I’m talking about ones that are six to eight feet tall and smell like the forest has come into your home. I trim each one with ornaments on a different theme—whimsical animals and other colorful objects, metallic stars and snowflakes, glass balls hand blown by local craftsmen.

As my husband and I have aged, it’s become more difficult to get the live trees into their stands. Not to mention getting them straight once they’re in them. We used to laugh when we went through that process, but about two years ago we realized it wasn’t funny anymore. Still, I resisted going fake, lest I evolve into one of those eccentric women who keep their trees up all year.

In my mind, there are four stages of eccentricity. Stage one, you take off the ornaments, stash the tree in a far corner of the room and cover it with an old sheet. Stage two, you leave the ornaments on, but still stash and cover. Stage three, the tree is in the corner, but you no longer bother with the sheet. By stage four, you’re keeping it lit all year. No. This was not a picture of what I wanted to become.

Remembering the prior year’s struggle with our live tree, I broke with tradition last year and bought an artificial one. We found it at Michaels for just $159. It was seven and a half feet tall, but our double-height living room made it appear stunted. The déclassé twine we used to tie it to the wall didn’t help. By Christmas Eve, I was so tormented by my decision that I went out and bought a live tree. The tallest I could find that late was five feet, and we put it on our three-season porch.

Now that I’m a year older and at least one inch shorter, if I want a tree that isn’t dwarfed in our living room, it probably can’t be a live one. As Christmas approaches, I’m searching on-line for artificial trees. I’ve seen some that look almost real. And definitely not déclassé.

Balsam Hill has a good selection, but the number of options is confusing. There are three degrees of “realism”—most realistic, realistic and traditional. Of course I want one that’s realistic. I’m feeling guilty even considering this. But I’m a traditionalist when it comes to my tree. I have no idea what the distinction is, so I put a pin in this decision for now. (Wedding planners on Hallmark romcoms are always “putting pins” in things that need to be resolved.)

Size is another factor. The 10 - 12 feet category seems right for our ceiling. This height comes only in “most realistic” and prices range from $1,699 (now on sale for $1,199) to $2,999 (now $1,999). Apparently, I need to think smaller. The next category down offers all three degrees of realism in a mere 73 combinations. I decide to pull out the realism pin and opt for the middle level. The trees that show up are all 9 feet tall. I can live with that.

The next decision is lights: lit (clear, multi, combo or LED) or unlit. I put another pin in this. Pin in, pin out, pin in. This is giving me vertigo. The prices on these are “just” $1,099 (now on sale for $749) to $1,499 (now $1,049). In addition to those lighting options, I’m offered four needle types. I feel my ADHD kicking in. Desperate to take control of this process, I decide to go with clear lights, either conventional or LED, giving me six choices, which seems manageable.

Now we have needle types: Black Spruce, Durango Douglas Fir, Scotch Pine and Rocky Mountain Pine. This last comes in a “teardrop” shape that is “perfect for hanging delicate ornaments.” I take that to mean the branches will sag under my collection of blown glass balls. Other variations are said to be good for “heavier” ornaments. Does that mean the branches will be too dense for my dangly treasures? I feel another pin coming. Or maybe it’s needles. Needles and pins. (Am I hearing music?)

Good news! For just $19, I can order a branch sample kit with 22 choices that match up to all the trees I’m considering and then some. I spring for the kit, put a pin in the tree decision and head for the wine rack. Maybe a fresh tree isn’t such a bad idea after all. I’ll just need to find someone to help put it up and take it down. I put a pin in that, too.

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