“What’s wrong with your Christmas tree, GrandMum?”
That’s how 3-year-old Maranatha greeted me on Christmas morning last year, and with good reason.
We try to keep our Christmas celebrations low-key in order to focus on the birth of the Christ child. This resolve was greatly aided some years back when I was very pregnant at Christmas. Not wanting to be waddling around shopping malls with two small children in tow, I completed my preparations several months early that year. Advent and Christmas were so relaxed that I resolved to continue the practice: simple and early.
But the whole Christmas tree thing remains too complex. A typical December finds my husband and assorted offspring heading to a local South Glastonbury farm in search of the perfect tree. Year after year, I beg for a smallish tree, no more than five or six feet. “Sure, Mom,” they say, rolling their eyes. Not going to happen.
Peter lugs a rusty saw and a hatchet, looking like Paul Bunyan in running tights. Heaven forbid they should use a power tool. Thigh-deep in snow, they find a tree that appears reasonable in size, and set to hacking it down. Then they drag it to the car, secure it to the roof and head home.
Only when they attempt to maneuver the blasted thing into the house do they realize, yet again, that their modest-size tree is, in fact, a monstrosity. What makes it worse is that, while Peter loves chopping it down, he detests setting up and decorating the tree. Each year, he sulks on the couch as the family decorates a ridiculously large tree, to the crooning of Bing Crosby Christmas tunes.
By last Christmas, three of our four children had had the audacity to move out of the house, leaving a solitary college kid desolate at home with elderly parents. Advent proceeded more rapidly than usual, and by Dec. 23, we still lacked a tree. Once again, Peter headed out, but this time he returned empty-handed with the report that the smallest tree he could find cost $50. That seemed outrageous, even to him.
Thus I prevailed upon him to cut a scraggly sapling in our yard – a tree that never should have been allowed to take root in the first place. The thing couldn’t have had more than six branches, all lopsided and droopy and pathetic. I loved it. I mean, Jesus slept in a crib fashioned from a feeding trough. Makeshift worked just fine for Jesus, so why should I need fancy?
With two quick chops of the hatchet, the tree was down. Peter slung it over his shoulder and ushered it into the house. Only then did it occur to us that the trunk was so scrawny that our Christmas tree stand could not grip it.
Enter fishing line.
Peter, an inventor at heart, tied fishing line to the top of the Charlie Brown tree, then suspended it from a post on the ceiling, dangling the tree a few inches above the carpet.
Yes, we hung our Christmas tree from the ceiling. It did swing around a bit, especially when the toddler pushed it, but that just added to the charm. I mean, who else has grandparents with a swinging Christmas tree?
The big question, of course, is whether I can persuade Peter to hack down a sapling again this year. I’d gladly do it myself but the family fired me years ago after I brought home the most adorable lopsided Charlie Brown tree on the lot. They concluded that I cannot be trusted to exercise good judgment. It’s probably true.
But I do know that a hanging Christmas tree is just as festive as an expensive store-bought tree, and a lot more fun. The money we save can be given to our local food bank, and we’ll have the advantage of a no-cost swinging tree.
What’s not to like?
Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer. She is the author of Do Bad Guys Wear Socks? Living the Gospel in Everyday Life.