We were late buying our Christmas tree this year. Since we usually leave town a few days before Christmas, we tend to set up our tree early in December, so that we have a couple of weeks to enjoy it. This year, there was no such time pressure, as we’d be here through the holidays. So we took our time. Other holiday plans, and the first snow of the season, got in the way of us finding our Christmas tree.
When we arrived at our neighborhood tree lot on Saturday, the pickings were slim. Only 25 to 30 trees remained on the lot, and many of those were taller than we wanted. As we reviewed our few options, I noticed a young couple looking at a smallish tree. About 5 feet tall, and just as wide across at the bottom, the tree was an equilateral triangle. Not the classic Christmas tree shape, but charming. When they opted to buy a different tree, the little tree was ours. The tree lot guys trimmed the bottom of the trunk and hefted the tree into the Saab’s trunk; we brought the tree home and set it in a bucket of water on our front porch for the night.
Sunday afternoon, Paul carried the tree into the house. Its branches radiated cold. We oriented the tree with the nicest side facing into the room, and Paul set its trunk into our cast iron tree stand. I held the tree straight while Paul tightened the bolts into the trunk of the tree. When I let go, the tree tilted. It didn’t fall over, but stopped at about 30 degrees from upright. Clearly, the bolts weren’t tight enough. I held the tree upright again, and Paul tightened the bolts a little more. I loosened my grip on the tree; it leaned again.
That’s when Paul noticed that a couple of the lowest branches were keeping the trunk from resting on the bottom of the stand’s water well. First we tried shimming up the trunk with scrap wood; that didn’t work at all. I lopped off the bottom two branches; the trunk was now all the way into the stand, but still leaning. Perhaps the trunk was cut at an angle? Why yes, it was! Paul took the tree back out to the porch to retrim the trunk. While cutting a narrow wedge off the bottom of the trunk, he saw that the main trunk of the tree was not straight, but bowed to one side. The weight of the trunk curving to the side made that side heavier; that’s why the tree was leaning. We’d had enough for one day; Paul put the tree back in its bucket of water for the night.
The next day, we tried again to get the tree to stand straight. Driving the tree stand’s bolts more deeply into the tree trunk didn’t work. (Actually, it seemed to work for a few thrilling minutes. Then the tree tilted sharply again.) Using wires to guy the tree to the stand didn’t work. We were both getting frustrated. Putting up a Christmas tree is supposed to be fun. Paul took the tree back out onto the porch. When it tipped out of its water bucket, he kicked its trunk, then leaned it back up against the wall.
When Paul started talking about wiring the tree to the windowsills, I knew it was time to give in. The tree wanted to lean; why not let it? We’ve always set up our Christmas tree in our living room’s corner bay. We could set the tree stand farther into the bay, and turn the tree so that it leaned not into the room, but into the corner. When I suggested this to Paul, he hugged me, clearly relieved.
This afternoon, Paul brought our tree back into the house. He set the trunk into the stand, then let the tree lean as it pleased. We turned the heavier side toward the corner, tightened the bolts in the stand, and pushed the stand as close to the corner as it would go. And the crooked little tree stayed exactly where we put it.
Paul lit a fire in the fireplace, and put on some Christmas music. I laced white lights and red wooden beads through the limbs of the tree, then carefully hung our ornaments (fragile near the top, cat-proof at the bottom). When I was finished, the tree was still crooked, still leaning, but wrapped up in the warm sparkle and glow of Christmas, it’s a beautiful tree.
To open the Advent calendar window for Day 24, click here: Continue reading Day 24: Giving in