O Artificial Christmas Tree

I’d like to say that I was bullied, bribed or blackmailed into getting an artificial tree again this year, but the truth is: I forgot. I forgot that I wanted to get a real tree until I had signed the credit card slip and the boxed tree was at the door waiting to be put in our car.

I’ve forgotten more important things. Like my son’s braces for 2 years. And which container had homemade Baileys and which had baby formula. But in forgetting that I wanted a real tree I forgot something that affected me and that makes it the most important of all.

My husband and I were at Fantastico, the store that is just as awesome as its name suggests. It’s in the flower market block and in addition to plants and flowers and vases, it has about 15 aisles of party supplies, wrapping paper, holiday decorations, and things for wedding planners and people who are on the gala committee. For example, one entire long aisle is just for ribbon.

At this time of year, more than half of the store is Christmas. No matter what your holiday theme is, Fantastico has got a selection of wreaths, candle holders, fireplace-mantel swags, ornaments, and resin characters sledding and skiing, all coordinated with your decor.

Before we went to Fantastico, my family entered the Christmas tree debate mosh pit. Fake or real. Real or fake. We’ve had an artificial tree since around 1993, the year after my husband’s and my son’s allergies got so bad that their stockings were filled with Seldane, pocket-sized Kleenex, and cold compresses. My stocking was filled with liquor and a sleeping pill, because I could barely stand the whining going on about the freaking tree and its emissions So the next year we went from a real tree cut down from a forest of adorable little, soft furry animals, whose proceeds went to feed homeless children with terminal illnesses, to a tree that came from China via KMart. 

For 20 years I kept my mouth shut about the artificialness and lack of homespuntinaity in our house at the holidays, even after new allergy drugs were developed and at least one person in my house outgrew nearly all of his allergies, seasonal and otherwise. I didn’t say anything about the new pitiful causes that we were not contributing to, or how many clarinet players would not be going to band camp because I wasn’t allowed to buy fresh greenery.

Then this year, my husband brought up the subject first.

“Maybe we should get a real tree this year,” he said.

“What about your ‘allergies’,” I said, emphasizing the italics and making air quotes with my eyebrows.

“They might be gone by now,” he said.  “We could maybe think about trying it for a year.”

I was pretty excited. I yelled “Action!” on the fantasy in my head that starred me as the boots-and-jeans-and-fisherman-sweater wearing ingenue who is picking out a tree as a light snow falls gently onto my periwinkle knitted cap but not messing up my bangs, and jingle bells are shaken by tiny elves in the distance. We find the perfect tree, of course, but not too perfect - it’s adorably crooked -  and when we get to our Prius the big Scotch pine magically clings to the roof without obstructing our view and we drive away without getting our mittens dirty. Because I’m pretty sure that’s how I remember it happening when we used to get a real tree.

That’s as far as my planning went. I tried to put the aforementioned fantasy on my calendar and my husband said, “Maybe we should first find out how much they cost. And then let’s see what a new fake tree would cost.”

So we decided to check out Fantastico to price out fake trees and allow ourselves to be sickened by their fakeness and have our real-tree desires bolstered. 

Then I forgot.

We got inside the store and I was bowled over by the glitz and glamor of all that silver and gold and plastic and I forgot that real trees even existed in nature. I saw the fake trees compared only to each other and started comparing the different types and weighing the pros and cons of big fat branches that are dark green vs skinny Colonial-era branches that are blueish, and before I knew it, I was at the checkout with a 7-foot-tall Shenendoah Valley Fir w/2672 Tips & 1200 Clear Reliance Lights-Dark Green Pine  

“Hey, wait a minute,” I said to my husband as the cashier took my signed slip. “Weren’t we going to just think about whether to get a fake tree? What just happened here?”

My husband was looking up at two giant plastic light-up toy soldiers (toy to who? Shrek?). He looked at me. And then he sniffled.  “You know . . . these allergies . . .” I have since found out that he has his eye on a small silver tree with a rainbow color wheel, just like the one he had growing up. 

Next year we'll debate that or real. If I don't forget.

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