Approach the task with good humor and humility. Presume things will go wrong. Resolve to be patient about it. Presume, but don’t believe, because you got this. Third time’s a charm, Right?
Third time without him, that is.
Set specific time to depart for the local big box hardware store where we always buy the tree. Wear Santa hats.
Strap tree to top of car, rather than stuffing it in the car to provide a year’s worth of needles to vacuum from various crevices for the year.
Get home without tree falling off top of car. Leave tree in cold garage for lunch break.
Complimenting yourself for being clever enough to leave the stand on the work shelf in the garage since last year, rather than high and unreachable in the rafters where Mike used to put it, pick up stand.
Discover that unspecified rodent has purloined substantial amounts of insulation (must be from the bathroom in the breezeway that connects to the garage – the one that is now so cold) to construct cozy nest in the tree stand base. Eww.
Don gloves. Remove insulation. Wipe with disinfecting wipes.
Place protective plastic on floor in front of bay window (that Mike meticulously re-puttied when he was so sick, taking breaks to sit down, over three days), for inevitable spillage of water when attempting to nourish tree.
Attach base that looks oddly like a giant cervical cap (ewww) to fresh-cut base of trunk. Place in larger base, that has a foot pedal that is supposed to allow you to waggle the tree around until it is straight, upright and stable, and then lock it there.
Angelic daughter holds tree strait. Perfect! Lock.
Tree immediately lists sideways.
Tree lists again.
Remove tree with giant cervical cap from larger base. Notice puddles, resulting from brilliant inspiration to put water in the stand before you put the tree in, on the plastic intended to protect wood floor, running inexorably toward said wood. Dash to kitchen for paper towels.
Angelic daughter decamps to watch TV when Mom’s swearin….erm, expressions of frustration, become a bit overwhelming.
Notice that in your efforts to place and lock tree, plastic has skidded on the floor, shifting tree way off center in front of bay window.
Breathe. Employ observation, reason and calculation. Realize giant cervical cap thing needs to be snugger on trunk, and needs to sit lower in base.
Use garden loppers to remove low branches interfering with giant thorn-looking thingees that have to be screwed in tight to tree trunk.
Screw in giant thorn looking thingees.
Sit back in satisfaction. Nice and tight.
Time to try again.
Third time’s a charm, right?
Lift tree with giant cervical cap thing into larger base, and feel the satisfying click as it settles in to the correct spot. Feels stable. Step back to look.
Praying (because God really cares about whether my Christmas tree is straight and stable, right?), shove foot pedal intended to allow waggling-around into lock position, and stomp down.
Holy crap. Maybe God does care that it is straight!
(No, dumbass, God cares that you get this done so you can calm down and stop swearin…expressing frustration, and move on to the decorating part which allows you to involve angelic daughter, retrieved from her retreat to the TV).
Praying more (hey, it worked), every-so-gently drag plastic back to center tree in front of window.
It worked again.
Having been brilliant enough to buy two extra sets of lights last year, in anticipation of the future inevitable malfunction of lights that worked perfectly before, begin stringing lights – smugly, because you checked, to be sure the star that will go on the top gets the female end it needs to plug into.
Carefully distribute two strings of 300 lights in tiers around tree. Pick up third and final string.
Realize that final string will have a female end where it needs to plug into the wall.
I put 600 lights on the tree, backwards. Used the female end that also has a male end at the top instead of the one with just the female end.
Unwrap lights. Rewrap lights. Decide 600 is enough. Last year’s tree, which had 900, was bigger.
Angelic daughter, creeping back in from TV room, proceeds with garlands and chains, and we (ok, I) only break four ornaments in the process of getting them out of their nests in the Christmas boxes and up on the tree.
After placing all her own handmade ornaments and garlands from school years, especially anything that has a picture of her on it, and the one with her Dad’s name on it, daughter decamps to take another break and watch more TV.
Which leaves me to hang the significant ornaments.
Listening to Vince Gill, “Breath of Heaven.” Hold me together.
The one with the little mouse at the front door, welcoming us to our new house nearly 20 years ago. House had LOTS of mice, we discovered.
The one of the little snowman with a shovel, that symbolized that year that Mike shoveled every two hours, seemingly for weeks on end. Big snow that year.
I didn’t expect the one that really got me, though – a little bear dressed as Santa.
“Bear” was my pet name for Mike.
“Can we have our quiet time now?
Breathe. Dry up.
Of course, sweetheart.
Regard the tree.
Oops, forgot the star.
Managing not to break anything (third time, anyway), clip top of tree with garden loppers. Pop star on top, held by treetop twig through the arms of the star.
I really should have put that third string of lights on. The lowest branches have none.
Abandon perfectionist tendencies. Decide this is good enough.
Because, however imperfect, to me, there really isn’t anything as lovely, peaceful, and comforting as a Christmas tree.
Angelic daughter is tired. Sit with her upstairs until she falls deep asleep. Return downstairs for more “tree regarding” time.
Play Christmas choral music, volume very low, by some Englishy choir, recorded in an echoey-Englishy-medeival stone cathedral.
Lo, how a rose ere blooming.
Wishing you a beautiful tree, or Menorah, or whatever brings you peace and light this time of year, and hoping to get over this cough in time to sing Englishy carols in a big stone church, I remain,
Your tree-regarding, Santa-hat wearing, soon-to-be-cookie-baking,