There are benefits of boxed trees

Sunday, November 30, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:30 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

When my husband and I were first married I remember jumping out of bed the day after Thanksgiving, getting dressed in warm clothes and heading to the woods with all the children in tow to select the perfect tree. That’s the problem with memories, we sugarcoat them. Actually, we only took the kids with us once and it was a disaster. The older ones were bored and the younger ones just wanted to run around. The youngest started crying when we told him we get only get one tree (back then, our house was barely big enough for a table tree.)

Since that year’s fiasco, my husband and I would sneak out alone to do the tree shopping. We would go to a tree farm just outside of town and wander around for a suitable pine. I always wanted the tallest tree in the forest. We’d tromp around until I had inspected every tree taller than seven feet. After I made my selection, we’d throw it in the back of the truck and haul it home.

Getting the thing in the house was always the biggest challenge. The limbs would scrape against the doorframe and as the tree moved through the foyer some of the paint from the walls would come with it.

Every tree in nature has a crooked trunk, so my husband’s next task was to put it in the stand with the goal of making the tree stand upright. Some years he’d have to put boards on one side to compensate for the arthritic stem. Once the tree was erected and sitting in a bowl of water and sugar, the next task was putting on the lights. Every year we’d argue about how many lights would adorn our tree. I wanted at least 10 strands and he thought a paltry six would do. After he tested each strand he would begin to wind the lights in and out and around each limb. When he had finished I held my breath waiting for the tree to light up. Then I would begin placing the ornaments on the limbs. The problem doesn’t come until after the entire tree is decorated. Once the pine is so loaded with balls and bows that barely any green is showing a strand of lights will go out —usually the one deep inside near the trunk. It used to be if one light burned out the entire strand would not glow — so for the next hour or so my husband would undo all of the tree trimming I had done looking for the culprit.

Another problem with buying a live tree (especially if you make your purchase before your stomach has fully digested the turkey and dressing) is how fast it dries out. I used to spend 10 minutes a day on my belly under the tree adding water. It only took two minutes to check and fill, but it took the other eight to get back up.

Taking OUT a dead tree is a major battle. The needles start falling as I removed each ornament. By the time the tree was naked it looked like one of the trees in our yard. The branches are so brittle that, as the tree passes through the door, it leaves more scratches along the wall and on the doorframe.

It took me a long time, but a few years ago I yielded to my husband’s pleading and we bought our first artificial tree. We should have waited for the pre-lit kind — but who knew?

The tree came in a handy box (that didn’t scratch the walls as we brought it in) with all the parts color-coded for “easy installation.” Always be wary when the directions say “assembled in minutes.” It never says how many minutes. In our case it was 240. After my husband got one layer attached and started on the next, one of the lower limbs would pop off. I kept telling him that at least it had a straight trunk and he wouldn’t need to adjust it. We still had the light problem, but I reminded him that taking it down was going to be a snap. Remember that handy carrying case? Well, after the tree was been put up it copped an attitude and refused to go back neatly in the box. Half of the tree filled the case — the other half went into a plastic storage box I had to buy.

The next year wasn’t any better trying to put the darn thing together. One of the legs of the stand had snapped off while in storage (probably from forcing it into the box) so not only did my husband have to wrestle with the branches again, he spent another hour trying to get it to stop leaning. He announced that when Christmas was over he was going to keep the tree intact and store it in the garage. The problem was getting it through the door. You see the branches don’t bend very well and so it scrapes the walls and doorway on the way out. I think we’re back where we started. But at least we don’t have to water it!

If you have a comment or want an artificial tree with a couple of missing limbs please e-mail me at

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