76: The Spider Tree

76: The Spider Tree

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

The Spider Tree

Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.

~Bob Newhart

The first Christmas tree is the most important tree any couple will ever have. It will be discussed at length, photographed for history, and represents an important milestone for a couple.

And ours was covered in spiders.

As a brilliant twenty-year-old head over heels in love with my college sweetheart, I picked out the perfect Christmas tree. Well, at least I thought I did. It was a gorgeous tree, the best tree in the store’s parking lot the day after Thanksgiving. There, amongst scraggly pines and brown-tipped spruces, I found a prime specimen of Christmas in all its pine glory for the glorious price of $20. I paid and hauled it out to my car, gently loading it into my trunk and through the back seat of my Jetta on a tarp my dad had provided for emergencies.

This was definitely a holiday emergency.

After all, this was the first Christmas I would spend with my college sweetheart. While we’d be spending the actual holidays and most of the break with our respective families, we were going to spend a week after finals together. With visions of sugarplums and cheap felt stockings dangling from apartment walls, I was determined to make it perfect.

My sweetheart, and now husband, Ben, wasn’t as confident.

“Where did you get this tree?” he asked, helping me haul it from the parking lot to his lower-level apartment. We carried it through the front door, settling it on the cheap carpet.

“The store.” I beamed. Pulling off the orange wrap with a flourish, I whirled around. “Look, isn’t it pretty?” Fluffing the branches, I stepped back. “It’s so full and nice! And it was only $20!”

“I’m not surprised,” Ben muttered. He eyed the tree. “Where did it come from?”

“Santa,” I teased. “I’m going to go get the decorations out of the car. Can you set it up for me?”

“Sure.” As I hurried out the front door, I hid a grin. He was scratching his head as he inspected the tree and the $5 metal stand I had bought to display it.

I returned fifteen minutes later to disaster. Ben was rolling about on the floor, clutching his eye. “The tree stabbed me!” he bellowed. Jabbing a finger at the offending foliage, he shouted, “It’s a vicious tree!”

I dropped the bags of ornaments on the couch and hurried over. “How did it stab you?” I bent down, trying to peel his fingers from his face. He simply clamped harder.

“I was trying to help you wind the lights around,” he pointed to the strands dangling from the branches. “And I bent down to wrap a branch and...” he snarled, glaring at the tree, “it stabbed me! A needle poked me in the eye!”

“Let me see.” Sighing, he moved his hand. I peered at his eye. “I don’t see anything.”

“What?” Ben rocketed to his feet, rushing to the bathroom. “What are you talking about?” he bellowed. “It’s red and watering. And there’s a hole!”

“A hole?” I swallowed a giggle. “How is there a hole?”

“There’s a hole! In my eye! That tree stabbed a hole in my eyeball!” Water streamed from the sink and he splashed his face. “There’s a hole in my eye!”

“So I take it you don’t want to help me decorate the tree?” I winced as his offended roar shook the apartment walls.

“It’ll just stab another hole in my eyeball!” Clutching a washcloth to his face, his good eye glared at me. “That tree is out to get me! I know you think I’m paranoid, but there’s something very strange about that tree!”

If only I had known how right he was.

After I decorated the tree alone, I kissed Ben and left him and his sore eye to rest. I returned the next morning, bursting with holiday cheer and plans for a sunny, crisp Saturday.

“Hi, honey! Listen, I was thinking...” I froze, staring at the tree.

“What?” Ben twisted, his one eye still red. He squinted at the tree, which was hard to do with one good eye. “What is that?”

“It’s...” I crept closer, goose bumps popping up on my arms. Peering closely at the branches, I gulped. “It’s... spider webs.”

“Spider webs?” Ben’s eyes widened. “Those are spider webs? I thought it was tinsel or glitter or something!” He shuddered.

I shook my head, forcing back the bile rising in my throat. “Nope. Those are spider webs.”

And indeed they were. Our festive, perfect first Christmas tree as a couple was covered from the tip of its plastic star to the bottom branches with white, perfectly spun spider webs.

“But where there are spider webs there are...” Ben gagged, “...spiders! Tons of spiders!” He rushed over to the patio door, throwing it open. Before I could even grab a single ornament, our first Christmas tree was flying onto the lawn, landing in the tiny grass square outside his apartment. Red bulbs shattered across the sidewalk as white lights blinked in the bright sunlight.

As Ben hurried to find the bleach and mop, I stared at the tree through the patio door.

“I’m sorry, darling.” I lowered my head, tears springing to my eyes. “I just wanted us to have a perfect Christmas, and the perfect Christmas tree. I wanted us to have a great Christmas.”

Hurrying to the door, Ben stopped to give me a kiss.

“Tree or no tree, any Christmas with you is perfect.” He leaned his forehead against mine. “Because all I want for Christmas is you.”

And just as my heart swelled, he turned and glared at the offending tree. “But not trees with spiders. Or trees that stab eyeballs.” He raised the broom and opened the bleach, slamming the patio door behind him.

The tree was in the dumpster two hours later, ornaments and all.

Needless to say, that was our last Christmas tree until our first Christmas as a married couple, after graduation.

We purchased an artificial tree, which we still use every year.

Ben is happy to report it is spider free and does not poke unsuspecting eyeballs.

~Miranda Koerner

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