Moving to Florida has required many adjustments in our lives and traditions. This year, the pandemic has walked all over family plans. My wife’s family takes an annual trek to a different part of the country, and spends 7 days together under the same roof. Not this year.
Daughter is excited about Christmas, but that excitement is tempered by her age — 13 — and a social life derailed by health threats. Her cheer team was quarantined at least twice. She’s spent more time schooling at home than sheltered by the ivy halls.
Last year, she was inspired to set up a small artificial tree in her room, decorated to reflect the seasons. It’s held up well, despite Samson’s habit of gnawing off the paper needles at the bottom of the tree, then gacking up the remnants elsewhere in well-traveled areas of the house. Samson is one of our cats, by the way.
Getting to the point: Wife was leaning toward an artificial tree — equipped with lights and ornaments. I couldn’t see my way to this. I enjoy putting lights on the tree, and nearly all of our ornaments have sentiment, a story and memories.
The calendar was relentlessly chugging its way to the 25th. Something had to give, something had to be done.
Having a real tree at Christmas is a tradition I had hoped to keep, but I realized that somewhere down the road I might need to let go.
We’ll go look at a fake tree, I told my wife. Driving home from a couple of hours on the beach, we went to the nearby Walmart and headed for the seasonal department. There were a couple of overpriced trees on display, but it appeared they were out of stock. Don’t get me wrong — I have seen impressive artificial trees, which truly mimic the real thing.
We rummaged around the shelves, and found the best that was left. It was billed as 7-feet tall, and 2-feet wide. Didn’t look too bad.
We got home, and Daughter came out to help carry in the groceries we had purchased. The tree came out of the car last. I lugged it in, and noticed Daughter had disappeared. She’s in her room, crying, I was told. The fake tree had crushed her Christmas spirit.
After putting away the groceries, we assembled the tree. Mmmm, not very tree-like. The wire limbs, fully stretched, appeared shy of the promised 2-foot width. I put on a string of lights, and stepped back.
Wife and I looked at each other and shook our heads.
The new tree, with white lights, was a perfect fit in front of the narrow glass window next to our front door.
“Go get a real tree.”
It was 8 o’clock at night. I knocked on Daughter’s bedroom door and told her we were going to get a real tree. It took a few moments to sink in. We headed for the nearest tree lot. We were late in the game, and the selection was a bit sparse. She was drawn to one right away, but we knew to explore all possibilities. My main concern was how the needles remained attached to the branches. Was there a shower of needles if you shook or banged the tree?
We went back to our original favorite. That’s the one. We paid. They netted the tree and put it on top of the car for the short trip home. It occurred to me it was the first time I’ve ever bought a Christmas tree while wearing swim trunks.
Remember those Christmas traditions and heirlooms I was talking about? I’d been dragging around a cast-iron tree stand for years. Once a tree was eased into that stand, it wasn’t going anywhere. The screw-in bolts were rusting out. Only 3 of the 4 worked for that past several years, but that was enough to support any tree.
This year, 2 of the 4 bolts were out of commission. To compensate, I wedged in a water sprayer from an outside hose, some rocks and a scraping tool inside the stand next to the tree’s trunk. I ran a wire from the tree to nearby moulding. It stood — at an angle. I put the lights on the tree. I hauled the ornaments out of storage, but Wife said we weren’t going to decorate such a flimsy looking tree.
Then she said the stand was leaking — some of the gifts under the tree and the tree skirt were wet. I told her it was one of the cats dipping in a paw and pulling it out wet. There were no more wetness incidents after that. I told her if the stand was leaking I’d patch it.
I searched the Internet for stores that sold tree stands. Nothing. Our lonely, unadorned but lit tree stood.
The subject of a tree stand came up during our next ride home from a little quality beach time. She wouldn’t decorate until the tree was in a new stand. I told here everywhere was sold out; she suggested Walmart. We stopped there on the way home.
There was one style in stock in the Garden department, fewer than 10 stands remaining. Looks good to me. I wore it like a hat back to our car.
We came home and immediately made the tree swaperoo.
Live (cur) tree was in a new stand. Everyone was happy. My cast-iron relic still sits by the front door. Guess I’m not quite ready to let go.
It was then I realized that I had purchased a Christmas tree and a new stand both while wearing swim trunks. Guess that’s what you call a Florida Christmas.