Store bought tree blues

October 30, 2020


Okay . . . convince me I did the right thing!

Years ago with the real deal.

2020 finally broke me slam in two. In a moment of worn-out weary weakness, I ordered an artificial, pretend, phony-baloney, fake Christmas tree. I’ll never be the same again. 

There are many things I can’t do, but I won’t bore you with those needless details, however, I will tell you that I am an expert at decorating a Christmas tree. The hospital where I was born in Florala had large evergreens on the lawn, and the nurses noted how I stared out the window at them and smiled my first toothless smile. 

The Christmas tree at The Grand Hotel is one of the largest live trees in our area.

I’m very picky about my Christmas tree not looking matchy-matchy or store bought. Preferring the lopsided all-natural Charlie Brown trees, I think they symbolize something lowly being transformed into the spectacular. A plain tree in the forest made glistening and bright just like a humble dirty manger bringing forth a spectacular gift for the world. Evergreen, ever loving, a store-bought tree just can’t fit this scenario, can it? 

“You’ll love it!” said Eva Leigh. “It will be beautiful.” said Darla. “I’ve lost my mind.” I whined.  

The artificial trees always looked too perfect — like little green traffic cones or prickly party hats. “Nothing in nature looks that good” I told my mother, who for years has used an artificial tree. I wondered sometimes if I was really her daughter (so did she). 

But then, during the last few years, we wanted to visit family for a few days leading up to Christmas. Who would water the tree? I was the only one who took care of it anyway — partly because I’d scream, “Get away from the tree!” If anyone wandered near. 

The final straw was Hurricane Sally. I’m still so shell-shocked from losing so many trees, the last thing I wanted to do this year was to traipse around the homestead (or Home Depot) to cut another one down. 

The real reason I finally caved in and ordered the mock-tree was because I tested positive for COVID during the summer and although I was blessed to have had a mild case, I experienced great sleepiness and was a bit foggy-headed. My purchase should have been covered by insurance. 

Freedom to travel, no watering, no hurricane trauma, no dry needles on the floor and a feeling of pandemic wooziness were all reasons that led me to a weak moment.  The tree was delivered the week before Halloween. “What have I done?” I asked my husband as I dragged the coffin shaped box down the hallway. 

I’m hoping that I can twist or bend a few of the branches to make it look catawampus and imperfectly lifelike. There has to be a candle somewhere that smells like a real tree and maybe I can sprinkle some ladybugs, pinecones or bird nests throughout to give it a woodsy vibe. 

The box of green plastic parts and pieces labeled “A” “B” “C” and “D” (absolutely-bad-Christmas-decision) is sitting in my son’s room behind a closed door so I don’t have to think about it just yet. Part of me thinks I’ll like it, part of me thinks I’ve sold out. I’ll let you know how the fraudulent tree experiment goes, right after I celebrate an authentically real Thanksgiving with fake orange leaves on my table. 

This story first appeared on and in the Mobile Press-Register, Birmingham News and Huntsville Times.

Leave a Reply

  1. Oh I know that feeling! We had to do it with so much travel beginning before Thanksgiving. Always worried when leaving a live tree, no fresh water as you say and when to put it up. We found a tree we liked and never looked back, well maybe I did and still do. Close to the 25th I usually buy a live tabletop tree to satisfy that loss. Good luck, can’t wait to see how you get that whoppy look!

    1. Now that’s not only good encouragement, but a practical solution to use a smaller tabletop live tree to get that beautiful piney scent! I should have called you first. My smart-smart readers. Now, if I can just figure out how to put it all together. I’m still afraid to go in the room where it is!

  2. I have alternated between real and fake over the years, but I have found a way to have the cake and eat it too, so to speak. Use the fake tree and garland, etc., but add branches of real greenery tucked in here and there. We have leyland cypress trees and I get the husband to trim them some after I get the tree(s) set up and the garlands draped. Holly works, too, although that might have to get replaced if you add that too early. Magnolia leaves are a nice touch, although they will turn brownish. Soak all the cut branches overnight or longer in a bucket of water. When they have absorbed all they will hold, shake them out and artistically place them into the fake. Maybe wait a day before lighting it up to make sure there are no unfortunate water/electrical interactions!

    1. Brilliant. I did that with my wreaths before and because it was outdoors, they stayed fresh. I didn’t think about doing the same for the tree. You’ve saved me!

  3. I think it makes perfect sense! And that’s from someone who had real Christmas trees all my life for the main tree until three years ago when we downsized. But I can still sense my dad shaking his head in heaven because he sold gorgeous trees at our garden centers and the big day of the year was seeing the boxcar doors opened to beautiful Christmas trees and the scent of them pouring out the doors. Ah, the good old days!

    I think you’ve earned the right to bring in an artificial tree but good luck on getting your insurance company to pay for it! And how are you feeling now? I’m so glad you came through it safely.

    1. Thanks Dewena, I’m feeling great now, but for the life of me, I don’t know where this Christmas tree came from! hahaha! I think I’m fearing the assembly process more than the actual look of it.

  4. Leslie Anne, that is the modern age dilemma! I succumbed to artificial for two reasons…one year I went home to Charleston forChristmas and John stayed here with his family and the pets. Mom got sick, and I was there two weeks. Had hubby thought at all about water for the tree? It was so brown, I’m surprised it didn’t self combust. Plus my tree is all heavy Santa ornaments that would never hang on a real tree. I hire this amazing young man to do the tree assembly and fluffing, heavy lifting, and ladder climbing. So I just get to play with the pretty part (and no sticky sap!). I found an amazing candle bySwan Creek Candle Co called Fresh-cut Christmas Tree and a diffuser by Thymes called Frazier Fir. It only hurts your heart the first time you put up a fake tree!

  5. Our last live tree was from the boy scouts. Even though I faithfully watered it, it wasn’t long before it began to drop needles. Sharp little needles that pierced my bare feet. My granddaughter came over and decorated the lower half as high as she could reach and more needles showered down on her and our helpful cats. When it was finally time to take it down, I swept up the dried needles into a dustpan and asked my husband to take a picture. It was a reminder to never, ever succumb to the sales techniques of those cute little boys who reminded me of my sons. We have had an artificial tree with unbreakable decorations ever since.

    1. Karen, I have laid on my sofa to admire the tree and seen a cat face peering back from the tippy top of the tree! ?‍♀️….Roxanne

  6. I have actually had fake trees that “died,” I’m not kidding! I had one that started out ok, but after a while the branches drooped and faded {it was probably super cheap 🙂 } Anyway, we bought it the year after our real tree lost all it’s greenery, fell off like it had been stripped by locus, 3 days before Christmas! We had to hustle the children off to the grandparents before they saw it and made a mad dash to replace it before they were scarred for life! Yikes! Now days, we buy the biggest real tree we can find, on my son’s insistence, but I leave him in charge of everything and one of my grandsons is in charge of crawling under the monster daily and checking the water. Christmas trees are like children, they bring much joy to your life, but also lots of worry and require a lot of care!!
    I can’t wait to see your tree up and decorated, I’m sure it will be beautiful!

  7. The fake vs real dilemma. I was once one of those that said I would never buy a fake tree and my mother-in-law convinced me by buying me one. It lasted 25 years and I will say the first year was the hardest. I missed the real smell and going to pick it out. I bought another fake when the old one wore out. This time with lights. That dang lighted tree went out on Christmas Eve. I was so mad. I went back to real. The pros of fake are numerous with all that you mentioned and they hold heavier ornaments. The downside to real is that no matter where you go to purchase them they have been cut so early and do get a bit crispy even with heavy watering. I go back and forth all the time. I know your struggle. I love going to pick one out and finding out that no matter how perfect it looked it will have a problem side, but oh the fun. I grew up out in the just going to get a cedar from the woods. Great memories of that. Hope you enjoy it. Like I said, the first year is the hardest.

  8. For several years we bought live trees (Leyland Cypress I believe) and after Christmas we planted them in the front yard. Sadly, three of them from those times, about 30 feet tall, were blown over by Sally. Another one did survive and although I considered cutting, we left it for memories. Not sure we will even put up a tree this year as health problems are limiting activities. Might do a Snoopy tree though. Good luck with yours!

    1. I’ve always loved the idea of replanting a live tree, but have never tried it. Happiness to you throughout the holiday season with your unique and lovable tree, no matter what it looks like!

  9. I grew up with fake trees; my grand mother’s aluminum silver tree, with pink, yes pink, ornaments and a color wheel and my own family’s green bottle brush looking tree. I was adamant about having a real tree once I was married. And we did, until the year we bought a house and had our first baby. As both first time homeowners and parents the thought of the fire hazard just was too much for us. However, I despaired of finding a fake tree I could love and afford. We did however find one on a visit to friends in East Texas and a trip to a Christmas store there. It was out of our budget and we initially passed on it, but a few days after we returned home, husband realized that tree would be a smart purchase for Christmas and for the health of his marriage! We got our money out of it for close to 20 years. When it came time to replace it both the quality of fake trees and our budget had increased dramatically and we’ve had several wonderful fake trees since.

    I too hire someone to get the tree out of storage and set it up and then to come back in January and take down. The service is offered by a professional organizing company and for someone like me, a widow with physical limitations, it’s money very well spent.

    1. Now, that’s the way to do it! I’m glad you still have a tree every year and I’m sure it’s spectacular. I think I would actually like the silver and pink tree!

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