I grew up with real trees every Christmas – my clearest memories of Christmas trees are the towering 10-foot white flocked trees we favored through my late junior high and high school years, wrapped in multicolored lights that could be set to blink off and on in sections and hung with a mixture of homemade (the macaroni angels & clothespin soldiers my grandmother made; the strange construction paper and walnut creations my brother and I glued through years of Catholic school) and store-bought ornaments (the frosted-and-glittered glass balls I picked out with my dad when I was a sophomore). Donna, on the other hand, grew up with a 5- or 6-foot artificial tree that was absolutely covered from top to bottom in a wild assortment of ornaments, remembrances of family vacations, childhood photos, Disney characters….

I insisted from the start that we have a real tree. It used to be that there was very little about Christmas I enjoyed, and having a real tree was the only thing I would admit to liking. Now, though, I am less of a humbug than I used to be, and I enjoy so many things about the season. But still, a real tree! So for the third year in a row, Donna and I took the very short drive to the small farm market across the highway and quickly identified a Douglas that we liked. It’s a beautiful squat thing, wide and stiff and lovely. We brought it home Saturday, set it up and strung it with lights.

It leaned, a little.

It was a thing of beauty.

Tonight, we pulled out the Christmas decorations: some ornaments, our stockings, Donna’s Christmas village, the electronic snowglobe & musical puppy that Jacob picked out over the past two Christmases. We started the evening with Alvin & the Chipmunks’ “Christmas Time is Here” and moved on to the Barenaked Ladies, Harry Connick Jr. & Sarah McLachlan. The tree looks beautiful.

As Donna placed a small silver bell on the tree, this conversation took place:

Rachel: I think that’s probably enough now.
Donna: Enough ornaments?
Rachel: Yeah, I think so.
Donna: :snickering: Yeah, if we add anymore the tree might really fall over.
Tree:  [creeeeeak]
Rachel: :looking startled & catching the tree as it topples forward:
Donna: Like that!

We spent the next half hour adjusting & readjusting the screws in the trunk. Eventually, the tree stood up straight and we breathed a sigh of relief. Donna pulled out the vacuum to dispose of all the fallen needles. The tree fell forward again – she caught it just in time.

The tree is currently being held mostly upright by some coooking twine, two 8-pound dumbbells and all the hopes of the Buneke clan.

Merry Christmas, kids.

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