By Wayne Chan
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Another Christmas and year has come and gone, and I have a confession — we bought our first artificial Christmas tree.
First, I take you back to 1991, to my first Christmas as a married man. We lived in a small townhome, and despite the very modest size of our home, I was determined to show my new bride Maya, who was born and raised in Taiwan, what a traditional holiday Christmas was all about. Of course, the first order of business was getting a real, live, Christmas tree.
The idea of getting our first live tree might bring up visions of bundling ourselves up in goose down winter coats, trekking up to a local tree farm who supplies us with steaming hot mugs of apple cider while we stroll along the rows of snow-flecked trees, and listening to yuletide tunes in search of our perfect, newlywed Christmas tree.
Living in sunny Southern California, the experience was a bit more, shall I say, temperate?
There would be no goose down winter coats. If I recall, I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt that read something like, “My other car is a surfboard.” There would be no walking to any tree merchants. We would be driving my beat-up truck with the air conditioning on high blast, wearing sunglasses with each of us sipping on our own 32-ounce ice teas that we picked up at the 7/11 store on the way to the Home Depot that was selling Christmas trees in the parking lot. No yuletide music either. But I did hear someone blaring the Grateful Dead from his car, as he was backing up to buy some fertilizer.
But, aesthetics aside, it didn’t matter. This would be our first Christmas together, and I wanted to make it a good one. That meant buying the biggest tree on the lot.
The thing is, when you are first married, especially for the groom, you are still basically in the dating phase of the relationship. You’ve spent the last year courting your soon-to-be wife, trying to impress her, and even though you’re now married and made everything legal, there’s still a part of you that wants to make sure that she’s made the right decision. Which means, something as seemingly simple as buying a Christmas tree needs to be a gargantuan task, because you are about to buy a gargantuan Christmas tree.
It didn’t matter that our little townhome was completely unsuitable for a 12-foot Christmas tree. It didn’t matter that once the tree was set up, it would actually scratch our ceiling and knock down some of the popcorn texture on it. You rationalize that all that popcorn just makes it look like snow.
It also didn’t matter that I forgot to consider that I was putting this gargantuan tree on a stand that I used for trees when I was single, which was basically designed to hold up any tree, so long as that tree was no more than three feet tall.
And let’s not forget that since I had spent my entire holiday budget on this tree, I no longer had any money for additional ornaments to decorate this tree, which meant that I decorated the tree with the ornaments I had from the aforementioned three-foot tall single guy Christmas tree. What ornaments I had wasn’t enough.
So, what did my gargantuan tree look like? Have you ever seen those wooden ships encased in a glass bottle and wondered, “How did they get that thing in that bottle?” That’s what our tree looked like in our little house. Just add far too few ornaments on the bottom half of the tree (I couldn’t afford a ladder) and some wires attached from the tree to the wall to keep the tree from falling over from the too small tree stand, from the breeze created by anyone who happened to walk past it. I think you’ve got the picture.
If you think that one experience would dampen my enthusiasm for getting a live Christmas tree every year, you’re right, but it did take a while.
In the years that passed, the tree has gotten a bit smaller every year, while the house has gotten bigger, and the ornaments have multiplied. And now that we have three kids, the quest to get the perfect tree has been taken on by the kids.
The branches aren’t even on that tree! We need more ornaments on this side!
There’s no room for presents over here!
It’s been 26 years from that first tree, and I give up. This last Christmas, it was an artificial tree. It’s easy to set up, easy to put away, and it already had lights!
What’s not to love?
My son Tyler had the answer: I don’t like it. It’s too perfect!
Someone help me.
Wayne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.