ONTD Political

Christmas... tree surgery!

6:16 am - 12/25/2012
I starved my Christmas tree of water, so fir surgery was called for to save the holiday.

I'm writing you from the scene of Christmas tree surgery.

It wasn't pretty. But it had to be done.

The Fraser fir came home with us two Saturdays ago, and spent its first week in our home sitting bushily in the corner of the den. The couch moved over to make room. The rug gathered pine needles. The tree drank a gallon of water a day.

And then I tried to kill it.

It wasn't intentional. I'm not some Grinch who waited for the moment to strike, or Charlie Brown, who could never pick a healthy tree anyway. But this weekend, between brunch, Christmas shopping, and a late dinner on the lower East Side, I let the tree run dry.

The Christmas tree message boards; an active online community; caution against this sort of thing. "With proper care, a tree should last five weeks," they say. "But, whatever you do, don't stop watering. Even ONE DAY will do it."

Exposed to hours of air, the cut end of the trunk had sealed itself over with sap. I added more water and crossed my fingers. Nothing. My tree was on a hunger strike.

"Don't worry about it," said Chris. "We only have two weeks left anyway."

But I couldn't help feeling the tree's pain. What I'd done was tantamount to letting a holiday party run out of punch.

Only that morning the tree had been admired by our brunch guests, and Chris' mom was sending ornaments from his childhood.

What was I going to do when they arrived? Hang them on bare, brittle branches, scattering what needles hadn't already dropped?

Monday morning, as soon as Chris had headed for the office, I went to the hardware store. The clerk rang up a drop cloth and a handsaw; a shopping list that seemed more "American Psycho" than "It's a Wonderful Life", but I was on a mission.

Walking back through Carroll Gardens, where the homes and storefronts were festooned with every conceivable garland and bauble, I remembered other Christmas trees I'd known.

There were the ones I helped my dad cut down, the one my friend Mia hauled up six flights of stairs to the apartment we shared, and the first I bought with Chris, back in 2009, the one we stuffed in the back of a Toyota Matrix Zip Car for the trip home.

Chris hadn't especially loved Christmas back then, or at least not at my holly jolly level of mania. But a tree became our prized tradition, and this year he was the one scouting the sidewalk lots before November had even come to a close.

With the drop cloth spread out on the living room rug, I heaved the seven-foot fir from its stand, toppled it on its side, and sawed a half-inch coaster from the bottom of the trunk. In a storm of needles and shatterproof ornaments, I lugged it upright again and, a few minutes later, fed it three carafes of perfectly lukewarm water.

The room was silent but for the burbling of the coffee maker. The street was empty outside. I plugged in the lights and sat for a moment, the aroma of the woods wafting around me.

"You were very brave," I said to the tree. "And no one will miss that half inch."

Graphic surgery picture at the source Considering the news that's been posted so far, I needed a lighthearted Christmas story.

Seriously, though, who gets a live tree two weeks before the holiday?
martyfan 25th-Dec-2012 02:34 pm (UTC)
Um, what's wrong with two weeks before the holiday? That gives you plenty of time to set it up and decorate it.
skittish_derby 25th-Dec-2012 02:37 pm (UTC)
and enjoy it.
hinoema 25th-Dec-2012 02:49 pm (UTC)
True... I'm just one of those people who loves Christmas- for a week, tops. Then it's like "Ok, enough of that noise."
kitbug 25th-Dec-2012 04:52 pm (UTC)
We just got ours five days ago because Mom wanted to go get it with us kids after we got home for the holiday. It's tradition that we get the tree together and we're doing that as long as possible.
coyotesuspect 25th-Dec-2012 06:41 pm (UTC)
My family's always gotten our tree the first week of December. And my roommates and I decided to get a tree this year too, and got it right after Thanksgiving. It was lovely to have through finals. I don't understand people who wait to get their tree - it's such a lovely and happy-making thing for me!
bnmc2005 25th-Dec-2012 06:31 pm (UTC)
Cute story ... and I learned something. Thanks!
the_physicist 26th-Dec-2012 05:19 pm (UTC)
yeah, i had no idea you were meant to water Christmas trees. thank hell my flat is too small for a tree. i would have bought one and then it would have died, because i would never have thought to water it.
tabaqui 25th-Dec-2012 07:06 pm (UTC)
Heee. I kind of did the same to our cedar. But cedar's sort of stop drinking after a while, anyway. Sadly, dried-out cedar is even *more* of an allergen to my skin than healthy cedar. Getting the ornaments off will be fun!

Happy Christmas and Merry New Year, ONTD_P! :)
dragonflyxwings 25th-Dec-2012 07:40 pm (UTC)
I just sent an OMG DID YOU WATER THE TREE??? text to the husband. Lol
the_glow_worm 25th-Dec-2012 09:10 pm (UTC)
"You were very brave," I said to the tree. "And no one will miss that half inch."

zeonchar 25th-Dec-2012 09:26 pm (UTC)
It really bothers me that people cut down trees for Christmas. I know they have farms where they grow them for this purpose but why can't people just get fake trees? They looks just as good. They could also get a potted Christmas tree that they are not going to throw out the day after Christmas. The whole tradition seems a little barbaric to me.
romp 25th-Dec-2012 09:35 pm (UTC)
I don't like to admit to that level of sentimentality but I feel the same. Some of my best friends growing up were trees.

Christmas trees are grown simply to cut down, as you say--not unlike much of the wood around us--but still, ouch. It's really not much different from orchards that grow for a few years and are replaced so we're participating in the same when we eat plums, almonds, etc.

It does bum me out though so I finally got a fake tree to my shock and horror. But we're really in it for the lights and ornaments anyway--the one drawback is the lack of piney smell but I can drive 25 minutes and be in a cedar forest so I get by.
sunhawk 25th-Dec-2012 10:57 pm (UTC)
Real trees are compostable, most fake trees are not environmentally friendly with all the petroleum that goes into making the plastic for the tree and the trees themselves are not recyclable, just more dump fodder in the long run.

I love trees but I don't feel the need to anthropomorphize them. Just like the lamp from IKEA, the tree has no feelings.
coyotesuspect 25th-Dec-2012 11:19 pm (UTC)
Fake trees don't smell, look, or feel right. :C
brookiki 26th-Dec-2012 03:01 pm (UTC)
Fake trees are actually much worse for the environment unless they're used for about twenty years (and even then, a lot of people would still say they're less green because they're plastic and plastic is never going to decompose). There's also manufacturing issues, because while I don't know for sure where they're made and the working conditions in the factories, I'm willing to bet that they're not very good.

Of course, there are also environmental and labor issues with real trees, specifically the pesticides and travel issue, but if you can find a locally grown tree organic tree, that's going to eliminate part of that problem. When in undergrad, I knew a girl whose family actually had a tree farm.

I have a fake tree, but I've always thought the potted trees were a good idea, too. The only problem (and I just found this out) is that you can only keep a tree indoors for about four to ten days before the heat wakes it up and it thinks it's spring. You also have the issue of what to do with the tree after Christmas.

It does bother me to see perfectly good trees cut down, though. It just seems so wasteful, but so are about a dozen other things we do to celebrate Christmas, though, so what do you do? I admire the people who are committed enough to always do the environmentally responsible thing, but darn it, it's not Christmas without wrapping paper!
keestone 27th-Dec-2012 01:12 am (UTC)
Real trees (particularly ones from local growers that haven't been shipped very far) are actually more eco-friendly than PVC trees shipped from say China (that may well have lead in them as well as polluting the areas around the factories) and having a bigger carbon footprint from shipping.

Of course, live trees that then get planted are ideal. And switching to LED lights.
romp 25th-Dec-2012 09:27 pm (UTC)
No one in my family can remember to water a tree...or houseplant which is why we have none.

My parents bought a live evergreen in a container and brought it inside every December until it got too big and then it got planted in the yard and they bought another. By the time I left home, one was a 10' blue spruce. I'd like to do that but haven't managed it yet.
encircleme 25th-Dec-2012 09:49 pm (UTC)
My mom keeps buying me potted plants for my house. They keep dying because I forget they exist and don't water them or I overwater them in hopes of keeping them alive. It's ridiculous.
moonbladem 25th-Dec-2012 09:55 pm (UTC)
We've only bought a real tree once. I loved the pine scent but the entire time, I felt bad about contributing to the death of a tree so after that, we bought a fiber optic tree.

Happy Holidays to all!

Edited at 2012-12-25 09:56 pm (UTC)
betray802 26th-Dec-2012 06:16 am (UTC)
simply_blah 25th-Dec-2012 10:58 pm (UTC)
What an adorable story.
herongale 26th-Dec-2012 01:01 am (UTC)
FYI, they already had the tree two weeks by the time it dried out, and there were still two weeks until Christmas. So they got the tree a month prior to Christmas, not just two weeks previous.
romp 26th-Dec-2012 07:48 am (UTC)
That's lovely! We talk about getting a lemon tree that would move indoors during winter...
skellington1 26th-Dec-2012 10:53 pm (UTC)
One year I borrowed my mom's potted kumquat to be my indoor tree. :P Sadly, the kumquat was temperamental and met its demise a few years later.

Also, $20 for a 6' tree is a steal! So awesome when you can get a landscape size plant without breaking the bank. I put in a nine foot vinemaple last year, and was absolutely thrilled to finally discover the nursery all the landscapers go to -- they do ONE wholesale-price sale a month, and my 9' tree was $50. :D
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