‘Trimming’ the Tree: Our Christmas Debacle

I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of this story–including a post I wrote about it on my now-defunct life blog–but I can’t stop sharing my cautionary tale with friends and strangers.  Forgive me if you’ve heard or seen this one before.

In December 2000, my husband and I were new homeowners, purchasing our center hall Colonial from an elderly couple who had a penchant for electric blue carpeting.  After decorating an artificial tree for five years in our previous apartment, I was ready to blaze a trail into the wilds of New Jersey to chop down our first live tree.

OCD tendencies run in my family, and I offer this up so you understand my mindset when tree shopping.  We went from tree farm to tree farm in search of the ultimate tree–you know the one–angels trumpeting, rays of golden sunlight, etc.  I also admit to spatial awareness issues, which is why we brought home a tree that was too tall for our living room.

I now submit to you photographic evidence of our first (and last) live Christmas tree:

The night is young and my husband is still smiling. Boy do I miss that blue carpeting!

After getting the tree in the house, I became obsessed with the bottom branches, which I deemed scraggly.  I foraged in the garage for a clipper to remedy that situation.  And that left us with:

Clearly losing patience with my genius idea of 'trimming' the tree.

At my direction, Anthony continued to trim off branches until the tree looked like this:

It's kind of like when you try to trim your own bangs at home and keep trimming them shorter to make them more even and unintentionally end up looking like Bettie Page.

At this point, it was apparent we’d have to cut the trunk.  Unfortunately, we didn’t own a handsaw.  Instead, I grabbed a tree branch trimmer from our garage.  Ours is older, longer, and more sinister looking than this one:

Our trimmer’s pole isn’t retractable and is about 15 feet long.  I stood bracing the tree (in the holder filled with water) and Anthony stood in the foyer.  He attempted to saw the trunk and the tree obliged him by hopping all over the living room, sloshing water as it went.  Ultimately, we subjugated the tree and managed to trim it down to size, but by that point Anthony was no longer speaking to me.

We finished decorating the tree in silence, and I knew this would be the first and last live tree we would ever have in our home if I wanted to avoid divorce court.

For several years after this, we didn’t have a tree at all and just sponged off our parents and relatives when we needed our fill of Christmas tree decorating or cheer.  Last year, I broke down and bought a PINK table-top tree.  We put it away last January fully decorated and this year I just pulled it out of a garbage bag, plugged in it, and voila! instant Christmas tree!

Oh, and under that horrid blue carpet was stunning hardwood.  Here’s how we ended up decorating the living room seen in the photos above:

So how about you?  Do you bother with a tree and if so, is it real or artificial?


  • At 2010.12.01 23:03, rhapsodyinbooks said:

    What a great story! Actually I don’t have a tree because I am allergic to pine!!!!!! I don’t really like fake ones (although they have the wonderful advantage of no pine needles to vacuum up all year) so we just sort of go look at everyone ELSEs’ trees!!!

    • At 2010.12.01 23:11, Coffee and a Book Chick said:

      Okay, I was giggling so much that it turned into a little bit more once I saw the trimmed tree — I was drinking water at the exact moment I scrolled down and saw it! Too funny!! I love this story!!

      And whoa on the hardwood — how gorgeous is your living room! Wherever did you get the couch of my dreams? is that Pottery Barn?
      Coffee and a Book Chick´s last blog post ..And Then There Were None- by Agatha Christie

      • At 2010.12.01 23:20, Natalie said:

        pottery barn? nope, i refuse to pay their insane prices and shipping rates. the sofas (we have another one in our den) came from IKEA. i purchased these for $399 each–ecktorp–and the slipcovers were a bit more. i bought an extra set of covers so i don’t have to worry about spills or stains. i do like pottery barn but their prices scare me. once in a while i drive 3 hours to the outlet in lancaster, pa and have scored some treasures, but i just cannot abide by their shipping charges and prices. 🙂

        • At 2010.12.01 23:23, Coffee and a Book Chick said:

          Yes, good point on Pottery Barn — they are quite scary with the “extra” charges! I forgot all about the affordability of IKEA!! I must look it up now…!!!!
          Coffee and a Book Chick´s last blog post ..And Then There Were None- by Agatha Christie

          • At 2010.12.02 08:40, nat @book, line, and sinker said:

            it’s funny, i thought i’d swear off ikea after college–the idea of building my own furniture as a grown up seemed weird–but they now have some really nice quality pieces and are budget friendly. this matters to me because i don’t want to keep the same furniture for 10 years–i like to switch it up and i can do it (with help from ikea, ballard designs, west elm, and the crate and barrel outlet) with ease and not too much punishment on my wallet. hee hee.

      • At 2010.12.01 23:13, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

        Did you say bother with a tree? Decorating our tree is one of the great joys of the holiday season. We had a live tree for years but finally went for a pre-lit tree 3 or 4 years ago. Your living room looks lovely!

        • At 2010.12.01 23:24, Natalie said:

          lol, you sound like my aunt. she LOVES decorating and festoons her entire house. 🙂 i love how a decorated house looks-my mom and sister also do gorgeous work-but i hate putting it out and then putting it away again. i have crates of decorations in the basement but am too grinchy to put them out. hee hee!

        • At 2010.12.01 23:17, Rebecca said:

          Haha! I love it. I love the idea of a real tree, but I think they it would drive me crazy if I actually had one. We just stick with a medium sized artificial tree.

          When I was little my family always had real trees. We would go to the farm, pick one out, and my Dad would chop it down. Then… one year, they let me pick… and I picked out this HUGE tree. It ended up going in the dining room (because it wouldn’t fit anywhere else!)… and my dad chopped about 3 feet off of the top of the tree… and it still touched the ceiling. We had artificial trees after that. 🙂

          • At 2010.12.02 08:31, Beth F said:

            We always had a live tree — we love getting one and decorating it. We have only mild spats about where to put our favorite ornaments (I usually win!). But we haven’t had a tree in about 6 years now. Our house is teeny, tiny and the treadmill now sits where the tree used to go. No room at the inn. We’ll get back to a tree one of these days.
            Beth F´s last blog post ..Review- A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows by Diana Gabaldon

            • At 2010.12.02 09:34, Julie @ Knitting and Sundries said:

              Only live trees – I tried an artificial tree one year and the whining from the children burst my eardrum. I always end up turning the tree around and around so that it’s “Best side” shows before I put in the water and start with the decorations. Hilarious story! Your living room is gorgeous, BTW!
              Julie @ Knitting and Sundries´s last blog post ..Narcissistic Predicaments by Sister Renee Pittelli – BOOK REVIEW

              • At 2010.12.02 11:27, Liz said:

                Haha great story! We get a live tree every year but it can definitely be a hassle. There have been numerous cases of it falling over and taking out a bunch of ornaments, so my brother and dad have now rigged a system using a hook in the wall and invisible fishing wire to try and keep the tree upright!
                P.S. LOVE your living room! So pretty and I love how everything goes together without being matchy-matchy.
                Liz´s last blog post ..2011 Where Are You Reading Challenge

                • At 2010.12.02 11:38, Ti said:

                  It’s a good thing that I wasn’t drinking coffee while reading this or my ‘puter screen would be covered in java. What a funny story!!

                  I don’t do live trees. For one, we are in California and the weather is usually too dry for a tree to last Thanksgiving through Christmas. The other reason is the last time we had one, I had just had kid #2 and it was pouring down rain so I let The Hub and my 5-year old son (at the time) pick the tree. BIG mistake. It was completely bare on one side and had a twisted trunk which WOULD NOT go into any type of holder. We had to sort of just lean it up against the wall.

                  I purchased a Martha Steward tree from Kmart after that and it’s done very welll for us. My daughter has an ice blue tree in her room and my son has a white one 🙂
                  Ti´s last blog post ..Review- Ethan Frome

                  • At 2010.12.02 11:47, Steph said:

                    I love that you documented your step-by-step tree debacle with photographic evidence! My favorite pictures is the one where the tree is all lopsided!

                    Our first year together, Tony and I had a large enough place that we did go out and get a real tree and decorate it, but ever since then, our apartment has been too small so there have been no trees for us (though we do tend to travel to our parents’ homes that have trees). I’m a huge proponent of real trees, though I suppose fake ones are better for the environment!
                    Steph´s last blog post ..Guess where we’re going…

                    • At 2010.12.02 12:01, Connie said:

                      This story is funny no matter how many times you tell it! And I still love the room, it is so beautiful!

                      • At 2010.12.02 14:25, Erin said:

                        I laughed so hard at those pictures! No wonder you’ve done with real trees — I don’t blame you!! Your new living room is gorgeous. I don’t blame you for tossing that blue carpeting!

                        This will be the first year I’ve really had space for a tree. I’ve had tabletop ones in the past. I actually bought an artificial tabletop one a few years back and ended up returning it; I just couldn’t do it. My family has always had a real tree, though I’ve never had to deal with it aside from hanging ornaments! I’m not sure what I’ll do this year. My husband and I still spend Christmas with my parents, so I do have access to a full-sized real tree for the actual holiday…but I would love to have my own tree up at home!
                        Erin´s last blog post ..The Classics Reclamation Project- Unveiled

                        • At 2010.12.02 17:38, softdrink said:

                          We know you can look back and laugh, but can Anthony? Or is he still bitter?

                          We have a small live tree that is in a giant pot. His name is Chris. He spends Christmas at our house, and the rest of the year he hangs out in my mom’s back yard (because she remembers to water him). He won’t be visiting this year, though, since we’re off to Hawaii next week and won’t be back until a few days before Christmas. I’m sure Chris will be happier at my mom’s house.

                          • At 2010.12.02 19:00, nat @ book, line, and sinker said:

                            Lol, love your tree! Nice that your mom has custody for most of the year. 🙂 Ant is still a bit salty about the tree debacle, but we can actually laugh now. He just gets a bit kooky when I start talking about maybe trying a live tree again. Have a great trip–Aloha!

                          • At 2010.12.02 19:20, Dishy said:

                            This IS just as funny the second (or third?) time round! You are truly obsessive compulsive, Nat. I feel for your poor husband. Then again. I’m no barrel of peaches to live with, so John’s probably thinking the same exact thing. Hope you’re enjoying lil pinkie again this year! XO
                            Dishy´s last blog post ..The 2nd Annual Holiday Bake-Off!

                            • At 2010.12.02 19:21, Dishy said:

                              PS: Living room is purdy. Even the second (or third?) time round.
                              Dishy´s last blog post ..The 2nd Annual Holiday Bake-Off!

                              • At 2010.12.02 20:35, Natalie said:

                                I need to take some new photos instead of recycling old ones–I’ve changed up several things in the living room and have new display pieces and accessories. How are you? I LURVED the high school reunion photos–hilarious. Can’t believe you actually went…

                                • At 2010.12.02 21:44, Dishy said:

                                  Oh Yesssss, btw, weren’t you re-doing your office? How’s that going? Done? If so, post pix please! (or if I somehow missed the post – link pls!) XO
                                  Dishy´s last blog post ..The 2nd Annual Holiday Bake-Off!

                                • At 2010.12.02 21:01, Jess (The Cozy Reader) said:

                                  This was the funniest thing I’ve seen in a while!

                                  We’ve been getting a real tree for a few years now. Our damn male dog thought it would be fun to pee on the artificial tree a few years ago and we don’t feel so bad about throwing away a real tree that cost $40 over an artificial that costs $100 each year. 🙂
                                  Jess (The Cozy Reader)´s last blog post ..Movie Trailer- Prom

                                  • At 2010.12.02 21:32, Jenners said:

                                    This is sooooo hilarious!! I love it. I could not wait to see what the poor tree was going to look like next!!!

                                    And I can’t imagine I would ever miss that blue carpeting!!! : )
                                    Jenners´s last blog post ..Review- Changing the Conversation by Gary Klaben

                                    • At 2010.12.03 01:19, avisannschild said:

                                      Oh my goodness, this is so funny! I haven’t had a tree in years, but this year I’ve been wanting one. I gotta say I love the smell of a real tree!
                                      avisannschild´s last blog post ..Really Random Tuesday- Boots- Kitty Pic &amp Giveaway Winner

                                      • At 2010.12.03 18:04, Meg said:

                                        Haha! Oh lordy, Nat, that photo with the tree’s bottom branches all removed is HIL-ARIOUS. We haven’t had a live tree in our home for many years — too much hassle; too much mess — but I do love the idea of one. I’m sure that someday, when Spence and I are in our own house, we’ll give that a shot!

                                        (And I have my mini fake pink tree up now, too! It’s on my desk at work and was also stored fully decorated. The year goes quick, doesn’t it?)
                                        Meg´s last blog post ..A giveway for a milestone week

                                        • At 2010.12.04 01:09, Lisa said:

                                          Used to do live trees every year. But then the tree was up for 3 weeks before Christmas (I mean, if I paid $50 or more for a tree, I wanted it for as long as possible!). And then we left for a few days to be with our families and I spent a good chunk of everyone of those days imagining that the tree would burst into flames because it was so dry and burn down our house while we were gone. Don’t even get me started on how much I hated taking the decorations back out of the tree after Christmas. I don’t miss a live tree at all!
                                          Lisa´s last blog post ..Fairy Tale Fridays – Just Exactly What Is A Fairy Tale

                                          • At 2010.12.05 01:53, Jess - A Book Hoarder said:

                                            I don’t think I would have believed how far that tree trimming actually went if you didn’t have the pictures to back it up. I didn’t have a tree the past 2 years but I did have a wreath so I could still enjoy the real tree smell. This year I picked a tree off my mom’s property. I have totally embraced the Charlie Brown tree and I am loving it.

                                            • At 2010.12.10 14:10, Kathleen said:

                                              This story made me smile. This is why I only do an artificial tree now!
                                              Kathleen´s last blog post ..Thanksgiving in Hawaii

                                              • At 2010.12.14 14:12, toothybooks said:

                                                hahah! i love your humor and story! it completely brightened up my day =D

                                                the other day my friend was telling me how she was putting up a real christmas tree with her fiance and they got into a fight over it too–he was watching football and she had to put up the tree by herself. i never realized how detrimental a christmas tree can be on a relationship.

                                                ps i love how your living room looks now! you’re quite an interior decorator!

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