As we put up our Christmas tree this year—I’m sorry, our Non-Denominational Winter Holiday Greenery—I will, no doubt, pause to marvel at the technological advances in the tree stand industry. For those of you who put up artificial trees (Heathens! Tree murder is the only way to go!) or otherwise not in the know, you may be completely unaware such miraculous advances even exist. Allow me to enlighten you.
The progress in the last decade or so has been miraculous. They now make a stand that has a simple metal peg in the middle, made to match up with the hole the tree salesperson drills in the base of the trunk for you. Your tree is then baled up in twine into a nice, neat package. You pop the tree effortlessly into the stand, snip the twine with scissors, and voilà! Instant NDWHG!
Now indulge me with a little step back in time. You see, when I was a kid, there was one tree stand model in existence. It weighed more than I did, and I’m pretty sure it was made from decommissioned battleships. It had four screws that ran through it, meant to hold the tree in place nice and straight, but failed rather spectacularly in this regard.
Upon arriving home from the tree farm, my dad would lug the beast of a stand up from our dungeon of a basement in a flurry of curses. And it was on like Donkey Kong.
The tree would be waiting in the living room, my dad already unhappy at the displacement of furniture necessary to make room for it. The tree, as if it were aware of what was to come, would lie on the floor in a way that, I swear, looked like a gesture of surrender. It wanted no part of what was about to happen, and to be honest, I really couldn’t blame it.
The house shook as the beastly stand was put in place; my older brother and I sitting on the couch, silently waiting for the fireworks to begin. Putting up a tree was a two-person operation, and always started out that way. Mom would attempt to help dad raise the tree—inevitably still covered in snow—into the stand, and would hold onto the trunk, trying to straighten and adjust it while my dad tightened the oh-so-useful screws. This process, however, would rapidly morph into a one-man show as my dad, figuring my mom wasn’t as helpful as he’d like, took over. He’d crawl under the tree with a growl, cursing the stand, the tree, the sap, and Christmas in general, and then emerge to check his work and adjust the tree accordingly. This process would take up the better part of the evening.
Adding to the frustration of poor design was my dad’s utter perfectionism. If the tree was crooked by a millimeter, he’d know it. And have to fix it.
My brother and I had front row seats to the best show in town. We’d snicker quietly and sip eggnog, our vocabulary expanding with each passing moment. I imagine it would be just like watching Daffy Duck erect a Christmas tree, minus the speech impediment.
No wonder he was dad’s favorite.
Once the tree was finally in place, mom would quickly put on the string-lights, setting our living room aglow in a warm, soft light. We’d all sit and admire the tree, my dad sitting in his chair, sweating and breathing hard, sipping eggnog as the snarl slowly disappeared from his face and a tiny bit of holiday cheer crept in.
Until, that is, it was time to decorate the tree…