I took our tree down today. What took me hours to put up (that includes the three times Anthony tipped it over and it had to be re-strung with lights and re-decorated) only took about 20 minutes to dismantle and pack away in the garage.
It always makes me a little sad to put away our little Charlie Brown tree. We got it 13 years ago, the first Christmas we were married. I already owned a tiny tabletop tree and a few ornaments and battery-operated lights, and we figured that would be the thrifty, albeit pathetic, choice for our first apartment. My parents figured differently, however, and they took us shopping the day after Thanksgiving to pick out a little artificial tree for our living room, plus trimmings and a few other goodies. We were so excited! It was a darling tree, perfect for two newlyweds in a small apartment.
A few Christmases later, we had a new addition to the family- a cat, who thought our tiny tree was perfect to hide in. She bent several branches over the next few years, until she outgrew either the tree or her need to climb it. No amount of force could ever return the metal branches to their former state, so I used the lights as a weak support system, wrapping the strand around the ends of the branches and pulling them into a better position.
The tree moved with us to two new places: a small duplex more suitable for children, and then to our new home. The only year it didn’t make an appearance was in 2001, when I had an emergency gall bladder surgery on December 11. I was ready to do without a tree that year, but my mom and dad rescued us (again!) with a small tree and kid-themed ornaments that they hung for me. They convinced me that our two kids, then 2 1/2 and 18 months, needed a tree, and of course they were right. When we bought our new home, it had two living rooms upstairs, so we had plenty of room to display a full-sized tree, but I had grown attached to this one. We put it on the coffee table and displayed it proudly in the front window. From the street our little tree looked strong and sturdy. In our living room, guests commented with delight on our cute little (deceptive) tree.
Sadly, I think our little tree has seen its last Christmas. After being stored in a Rubbermaid container 11 months of the year, being abused by an indifferent feline and tipping over three times this holiday season, I noticed that its trunk is badly bent and misshapen. Once the lights were removed, the lower branches pointed down instead of out. My husband prefers a more full look, we have enough ornaments in storage to cover three 8-foot trees, and quite honestly, a pre-lit tree is very appealing. (Plus, it will be very difficult for Anthony to tip over a full-sized tree. Note I didn’t say “impossible”…)
Today I couldn’t make the decision to throw the tree away. I packed it carefully in its green crate, then gave it an extra pat and a whispered “Thank you” for its quiet, loyal service to our family. Who knows? Maybe it will serve us next year too.