‘Twas the Seventh Day of Christmas and all through the house, the only creature stirring was yours truly. I am usually the first one up and about on a weekday, and I dutifully headed downstairs to make coffee, turn on lights, turn up the heat and water the Christmas tree…
Have I told you about this year’s Christmas tree? We got it from a lot near the house, and the plumpness and juiciness of it were eye-catching even at the Christmas tree lot. It came into the house with that evergreen aroma that is the harbinger of all things happy, cozy and Christmas-y.
For the most part, the dog has left the tree alone. She absconded with, chewed on and discarded a wooden snowflake, but that’s been the extent of the damage. Of course, she likes the tinsel because it just about leaps off the tree and attaches itself to her luscious coat, and we expect to -at one point or another- find some tinsel in the poop she drops in a particular corner of our backyard. Aside from that, the tree is just an outdoor thing that was placed in an area she usually doesn’t mess with much, and so we haven’t experienced any of the usual dog-related horror stories that people tell at this time of the year as if they were sitting around a campfire in a dark forest holding flashlights under their chins to morph their visages into something doomful.
No. The tree had been happily occupying its corner, witnessing the progression of our annual Twelve Days of Christmas with nary an incident. The whole December-cycle had been so pleasant this year that we, in fact, congratulated ourselves and each other, like Mortimer and Randolph Duke tend to do in Trading Places, as to how great this round of Christmas-y reverie has been…
Yesterday morning, as I said, I went downstairs to start the coffee and water the tree when I found that the tree didn’t so much need watering as it seemed to be watering the floor. A sort of quiet panic (the sort that engulfs you when you don’t want to rouse an entire household at an ungodly hour) took over and I moved quickly to get a tarp for the floor, paper towels to dry everything, and a flashlight to see if I could find where the water was coming from.
When Dada came downstairs half an hour later, he found that certain things were moved but, with the dignity of the Titanic’s skipper as his ship was going down, I informed him that there seemed to be a leak and we needed to carefully move the tree so the floor could be dried (“Hardwood floors! Wonderful hardwood floors! We love hardwood floors!” What were we thinking????) and the situation solved.
There was no water UNDER the tree base. Mysteriously enough, no water seemed to be coming from anywhere.
I know what you’re thinking: the dog peed. No. It wasn’t dog urine. It was water. Pure and simple.
So, we moved the tree, put the tarp down, replaced the tree in its allotted spot, and had our coffee. Afterward, we returned to our bedroom where I prepared my list of things to do for the day, and Dada got ready for work. The dog snoozed at the foot of the bed, far from the tree, and all was right with the world. Dada left for work shortly before 7, and the dog and I returned upstairs so I could read and do some administrative stuff before getting into the full swing of things at 8:15.
As I stepped off the staircase, I thought something about the tree looked off. But, as it often happens when you first look at the beginnings of a catastrophe, I couldn’t quite figure what it was. Like the time TGG shaved his eyebrows (he was five…wanted to look like Michael Jordan…kinda funny 22 years later) and I looked at him KNOWING there was something “not right” about his face, but not quite “getting it” right away.
A loud EEP! escaped me. The tree was drunkenly sagging against the wall. Uncle Billy leaving the celebration for Harry Bailey’s wedding in It’s a Wonderful Life appeared soberer than our tree.
I decided that giving J his med was the priority and so I went to deal with that before addressing the tree. This was, for once, the right choice to make…
What ensued, kind readers, is the sort of absurd chaos that Hollywood inserts into every Christmas comedy. Collapsing trees. Exploding ornaments. Water, water everywhere. A middle-aged woman trying to cope with what is now known as The Great Tree Debacle of 2018 and the young man who, loving Christmas as he does, felt it was a very personal affront to come downstairs to find his tree lopsided, his ornaments willy-nilly in a rather wide arc around the base, and his mother unable to fix this in the same prompt and nimble fashion she usually fixes that which causes him grief.
J’s distress over the tree’s collapse was such that not even pepperoni and cheese would soothe him; he walked around in circles repeating the word CHRISTMAS both spoken and in ASL, and his attempts at helping me were not particularly productive so we both ended up upset, frustrated and on the brink of tears. We alternated between yelling at the tree, each other, and then apologizing profusely.
Dada had to come home. There were more yelling, more throwing things around, more drying the floor. Because the tree, after being righted and secured, inexplicably decided that horizontal was the way to be, and taking the tree-base (and what cannot have been, but surely seemed, 100 gallons of water) with it.
At this point, the dog is outside (sitting in front of the fence in the farthest-from-us-possible spot she can find and looking out into the distance as if trying to pretend she doesn’t know us), J is circling around helplessly (all while repeating the word CHRISTMAS in a more plaintive tone than Charles Foster Kane utters “Rosebud!”), and Dada and I are both yelling at each other because the floor is wet, the floor isn’t being dried properly, we hate Christmas, we especially hate THIS TREE, we never want to see another real tree ever again, we’re too old for this shit, why have the GOOD towels been used to mop up the mess?, this will never be fixed, I’m leaving you and running for the hills…you name it.
The tree (which lost ornaments like the aristocracy lost heads during the French Revolution) is dragged outside on to the patio. The ornaments are peeled off and thrown into a bucket (the one that isn’t holding sopping-wet towels) and the lights are unstrung and set aside. J is still sitting at the dining room table and muttering CHRISTMAS to himself, raising his voice to say it only when I walk past him looking for tools, boots, whatever we need.
I am, by then, attempting to sound soothing even though I feel far from soothed myself. Dada holds the tree while I tend to all the things that will impede the rest of the process. The tree, he tells me (and the thought has crossed my mind, but I think it impossible), feels much heavier than it did when we first brought it home…
A quick Google search rendered no results that would confirm our suspicion that the tree is, quite simply, waterlogged. Try it. Google “can you overwater a Christmas tree?”, “how much water does my Christmas tree need?” Nowhere will you read that a Christmas tree will suck down water and accumulate it on each and every limb regardless of how tiny and insignificant it might appear to the naked eye. Nowhere. Yet here we were, standing with an overwatered tree that weighed -easily- ten more pounds (if not more) than it did when we bought it. The tree is so fresh and plump and juicy that it was no trouble at all cutting into it…it was, to quote Linda Richman from SNL‘s Coffee Talk, “like buttah!”
We hacked away at the base and the branches. The formerly-7-foot-tall tree is now shorter, and we have a clearer view of its trunk at the bottom. We put rocks in the base to help prevent another tipping-over incident. The tree is now (we hope) so firmly secured in the base that if it tries to tilt, it will probably make itself even more secure. Our hope is that, like Tai Lung in Kung Fu Panda, it will be a prisoner in its fortress until we decide it’s time to take it out of the house permanently.
Of course, if a feather happens to fall near it and it uses it to escape, that’s an entirely different story.
The whole process of returning the tree to some semblance of its former Christmas centerpiece glory took about five hours. From the initial tilt-sighting at 8:15 to “this tree is DONE!” and J being happy it was seven hours. J cried. I cried. I’m sure that Dada felt like it at several points during this long, drawn-out bout of chaos.
The rest of the afternoon and evening, and even this morning, we have been looking at the tree from every possible angle to make sure that it hasn’t budged a millimeter. It hasn’t budged at all…that we can tell.
The Great Christmas Tree Debacle of 2018 has left us emotionally and physically exhausted. The Seventh Day of Christmas proceeded as planned, and we all managed to get some enjoyment out of it, but we’re ready for the Eighth Day and putting this whole messy (the best thing for pine tree sap stains??? PINE SOL!!!!) incident behind us. The tree is smaller today than it was yesterday, and I admit we walk past it with suspicious looks and a wariness we didn’t feel before.
You might be wondering what happened to those limbs that the tree lost during the Great Hacking…well… since people keep pinning pictures of buckets with tree branches on Pinterest, the branches have been distributed in what (we hope) is a somewhat decorative and attractive arrangement on the front porch. The chunks of the trunk that we cut off will be displayed (as a cautionary tale and a reminder of this particular “someday it will be absolutely hilarious” incident) in the Diogenes Club.
I’d say in our old age we’ll look back on this and laugh, but we’re close enough to our old age to not find it especially funny. The neighbors, we’re pretty sure, now think we’re the oddest, weirdest, most mentally-deranged people on the street. I dread to think what went through the mind of anyone walking their dog yesterday between the hours of 11:15 and 13:15 (what we refer to as Critical Emotional Mass here). I’m pretty sure it came across like a cross of scenes from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Mommie Dearest.
Like all debacles, it isn’t really funny until, well, you start finding it ridiculous, funny, something that is so very in tune with the goings-on in our household that it should be par for the course.
I’m sure the full humor of it all will hit us next year when it’s time to do the whole Christmas tree thing all over again. We’ll remember the drunken tree, the insistence on J’s part of repeating the word CHRISTMAS in any way available to him, the yelling, the water, the towels, the dog trying to disavow any knowledge of us, and the months-long scurrying past our house of people walking their dogs and expecting some Christmas-related accouterment to fly out a door followed by a middle-aged woman (still in her pajamas, for crying out loud) screaming that she hates everyone, Christmas, and that she’s running for the hills.
Where did the early-morning water puddle that started it all come from? We don’t know. Was there water under the tree base when we threw (not took…threw!) the tree outside? NO. Not a drop! The floor under where the tree stood didn’t get wet until the tree tipped over and spilled what was in the base (pretty sure it was 600 gallons of water…though it may have been less than a quart…)
Lesson learned? Yes, Virginia, you CAN overwater a Christmas tree. Freshness ain’t all it’s cracked up to be…
Ho, ho, ho…