56: Woman Versus Tree

56: Woman Versus Tree

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

Woman Versus Tree

There is little success where there is little laughter.

~Andrew Carnegie

One Christmas, I found myself solely responsible for our family Christmas tree. Of course, our daughter, Elizabeth, was more than anxious and excited to help me with this task. Her fourth birthday was nearing — a mere five days before Christmas itself. All of our decorations were already lovingly placed throughout our home, yet there was an empty corner of the family room awaiting the tree.

For a number of reasons, my husband Ted and I would not be sharing this particular tradition. As December rolled on and Elizabeth’s excitement grew, I knew that I needed to take action. I thought to myself, “This can’t be that difficult. I certainly can handle this.” I had helped, or rather watched, Ted erect many a tree. I had helped, or rather watched, my own father erect many before that.

So I made the decision that on that upcoming Friday evening, our Christmas tree was going to fill the family room corner as it rightfully should.

I placed the plastic bins of tree decorations in the family room in anticipation. I set up the tree stand with open arms as if anxiously awaiting a visiting friend.

When Friday arrived, I bundled Elizabeth up and she and I hopped into my four-door sedan destined for the nearby church’s Christmas tree lot. Elizabeth bounded out of the car as soon as her car-seat belts were unbuckled. I raced behind as she scrutinized the nearest trees. Not surprisingly, the first tree that Elizabeth saw, and insisted on having, was probably a good three feet higher than our ceiling and wide enough to encompass half of our family room. I convinced her that there were so many other trees to consider and we really should look around for the “perfect” tree.

With that, she and I wandered up and down rows of various pines — some with most of the needles already on the ground surrounding the base and others with tiny drooping branches that appeared to have lost their needles months ago. We continued our search until we did, indeed, find our perfect tree. Elizabeth jumped in delight when I told her, “Yup my dear! This one is coming home with us.”

The kind volunteer attendants at the church lot carried the tree and placed it in my trunk. Actually, it wasn’t really in my trunk, but rather my trunk was supporting the middle while both ends stuck out the sides. We only had perhaps a quarter of a mile to get home so, again, the kind volunteer attendants provided rope to hold both my trunk lid and the tree in place. I hadn’t even considered that previous years we used Ted’s pick-up to get the tree home. Regardless, with both the tree and Elizabeth strapped into my car I drove ever so slowly back home.

Once arriving home, and assisting Elizabeth out of the car while she squealed with excitement, I ran into the house and grabbed a pair of scissors. As I snipped the rope that the volunteer attendants had so kindly fastened, my trunk lid popped up like a bouncing ball and the tree plopped out onto the driveway. I wasn’t discouraged. After all, the tree was going to be coming out of the trunk anyway... this just made it less work for me, right? And my daughter certainly found it amusing from her vantage point in the garage as I could hear her peals of laughter.

With that, Elizabeth and I began our journey lugging our Christmas tree around the house to the sliding glass door that led directly to its new home in our family room. I did the lugging while Elizabeth skipped joyously through the dusting of snow on the ground, following the trail left by the dragging tree. I hadn’t exactly anticipated the weight of the tree and had to take more than a few breaks along the way on our trip around the back yard to rest my back and arms. Elizabeth’s pure enthusiasm continued to boost my energy and after a moment here and there, we continued on our way.

Once arriving at the door, I felt quite relieved. Certainly the worst was over and now I would simply pick up the tree and place it in the stand. I had Elizabeth sit on the couch while I made my first attempt at this task. Taking a deep breath, I wound my arms around the prickly branches and hoisted the tree a few inches into the air, placing it in the stand. I then bent to tighten the screws at the stand base and our perfect tree attacked! Down it went tumbling onto my back as I flung my arms to catch it and keep it from falling completely to the floor. Elizabeth laughed.

“Mommy should have held the tree while I tightened the stand,” I commented to Elizabeth. She didn’t really understand what I was talking about but nodded in agreement. Again, I hoisted the tree mere inches into the stand base. This time I balanced the tree with my left hand and awkwardly bent to tighten the stand base screws with my right. My left hand was just a little too high up on the trunk of the tree and as I bent, our perfect tree again went tumbling down on my back. This time I was to my knees on the floor before I could catch the falling tree. Again, Elizabeth laughed.

“Okay — I’ll get it this time!” I said as much to myself as to my daughter. I truly believed that I had this entire thing figured out and completely forgot that when Ted and I set up the tree, one of us would balance the thing while the other tightened the stand. I was determined that this could be done. For the third time, I hoisted the tree, bent to tighten screws, and our perfect tree again plummeted down. This time I was face down on the floor with the tree completely flattened on top of me. And, again, Elizabeth laughed.

I gave up. I called my dad to the rescue and within fifteen minutes he and my mom arrived grinning at the door. Dad showed up with a small hand saw, cut the tree trunk so that it was even, placed the tree in the stand, and tightened the screws to hold it erect in what seemed to be a blink of an eye. My mom delighted in Elizabeth’s hysterical recanting of how the tree kept falling on Mommy. Elizabeth was nearly rolling on the floor trying to tell the entire story.

And I smirked, sitting exhaustedly on the couch pulling pine needles out of my hair. Naturally, since the tree was beautifully set up in the corner, we had to put some colorful ornaments, lights, and a garland on it, and Grandmom and Pop-Pop joined us. We listened to Christmas music and just had to smile. Every once in a while, amidst the decorating of the tree, you could hear Elizabeth chuckle: “The tree kept falling on Mommy.”

When Ted arrived home, Elizabeth rushed into her Daddy’s arms. She was most anxious to show him our tree and repeatedly chanted in her sweet singsong voice, “The tree kept falling on Mommy, the tree kept falling on Mommy!”

Now, many years later, with Elizabeth nineteen years old, we have transitioned to an artificial, yet very natural looking, tree that I can actually put up alone without finding myself pinned underneath its branches. Yet each Christmas season as we decorate, Elizabeth asks, “Remember when the tree kept falling on Mommy?” It is almost as if I can still hear her little girl squeals as we hang each and every ornament.

~Lil Blosfield

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