I admit it. I have become lazy over the past few years. I admit that I have, for perhaps the last ten years, gone over to the dark side and put up an artificial Christmas tree.
I know what you will say. How could I rob my children of the heart of the Christmas home? How could I deny them the excitement of going from lot to lot in pursuit of the perfect tree? How could I deny them the aroma of pine needles and the feel of sap sticking to their fingertips?
I admit it, I did it to save myself. I don't know when exactly I became a fan of the boxed tree, but after my first year with a very unconvincing replica of a Scotch Pine, I was hooked.
I remember when I was a kid, being so anxious to get a tree and put it up. My parents wouldn't allow it more than a week before Christmas, or two at most. But I yearned for more time to admire the wonder of the tree, more evenings spent hypnotized by the flashing lights and the sparkling globes.
With the tree-in-a-box, my kids never had to wait. I could put the tree up the day after Thanksgiving, and even better, I didn't have to take it down until March if I didn't want to. No chance of it drying out, no sharp needles to prick my arms, no worrying about making sure I had it by the curb on the right day for tree pick up. When I wanted the tree, it was at the ready. When I didn't want it anymore, it could be easily relegated to its box to wait in the darkness of storage until the season returned.
They never waited, and they never seemed to be as fascinated with the tree as I remember being as a child. Perhaps it is because it is so easily obtained, set up and discarded that they do no sit for hours just admiring it. In fact, they almost never want the lights turned on. I realized after a few years that I had, in fact, never given them a tree that inspired or amazed. It came from a box, just like everything else does.
This year we have a real tree. It's not up even yet, we only brought it indoors last night. It may not get decorated until Christmas Eve. The children will be impatient while we cut it to fit the stand and take special care to be sure it is in straight and secure. It will probably be dry in a week and have to be taken down again. I will probably be vacuuming up pine needles until Spring.
That's the true Christmas tree experience and every kid should have it at least once. When they are grown and living in college dorms or tiny apartments, they may decide to get table-sized fiber optic pine-impersonators that play carols as they rotate.
But this year, there will be a tree.