Well, with the memory of the first year still fresh, we decided to be smarter and put our Christmas tree in a room we thought we might actually inhabit during the winter months. We had decided to try to keep the other front room (the “library” – the first front room was the “dining room”) warm or at least not freezing for the sake of the books in there. An electric heater did the trick, as well as actually leaving the door open to the center of the house. [I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet that the house had no insulation. That’s not an exaggeration. One day I’ll have to talk about that house in more detail. Anyway.]
We also got a better jump on the Christmas tree shopping by going more than four days before Christmas. There was a store that had $10 trees, but you had to be quick to get something decent. One night we drove over and browsed up and down the rows, looking for a good tree. I didn’t mind it having a side you had to turn to the wall, but the other side had to be worth looking at. One of us located a tree with a nice shape and we stood it up to check all the sides. Wonderful. Then I bent down to look at the trunk. (This is something I learned from my father years and years ago – always check the trunk and keep your stand in mind.) Unfortunately it had some irregularity but you could tell that by cutting it off above the problem spot, the trunk would be straight. We toted it off to the staging area to be trimmed and bagged. Father stayed with it and I went up to the store to pay. When I came outside, he was in the car at the front of the store, waiting with the engine running. I didn’t see the tree. As I got in, I inquired and he said it was in the trunk. Alarmed, I said I hoped he hadn’t bent the top. He said that no, it was just fine and not to worry. I remembered the height of the tree and worried all the way home, picturing the majestic top bent forever out of place.
The more astute of you have started wondering something. Hold onto it. It’s coming.
When we got home, I ran inside to get the stand into place and then started to head back out to help bring the tree in. I met Father in the kitchen. He was carrying the tree with no problem all by himself. I looked at the top and saw with relief that it wasn’t bent. I noticed something else too. As Father stood the tree up in the stand, I was able to look quite easily over the top of it. Being only 5’5″, that makes for a reeeaaally short tree. We looked at each other. I think some recriminations started flying but time has dimmed those memories. In the end, the story was that when they cut off the bad part, this is what was left. Oops. No wonder it fit in the trunk.
We resigned ourselves to a short tree and set about decorating it. After we put the lights on and turned them on to check, I caught the reflection of the tree in the window. The window! We ran outside and looked at the tree from the street. You could only see about a foot to a foot and a half of tree above the windowsill. We groaned and stood staring at the ridiculous sight.
As it was cold, we soon went back in the house and paced around the tree, trying to figure out what to do. I thought that if I could only elevate the base, then it would look normal from outside. We weren’t expecting any visitors so if it looked a little funny inside it wouldn’t matter too much. What to elevate it with? I have no idea why we had these, but I managed to build a little tower out cement blocks and we balanced the tree stand on top. Great. Now we had a little tree on a pile of cement blocks.
No problem, said the former girl scout, as I swathed the blocks with some cheap Christmasy plaid material. The blocks made the cloth hang oddly and emphasized the sharp corners. Sooooo, I started wadding up newspaper and shoving it under the cloth until it stood out in a nice, soft shape oddly reminiscent of a model volcano from the fourth grade. I figured this was as good as it was going to get. Father said it looked insane but didn’t have any better ideas. We checked again from the street.
|The base of the tree is on a level with the seat of the couch.
See the branches? (That’s Lucy next to the tree.)
|The picture is dark (and this is a picture of a picture) but you can see
the plaid material around the base if you look closely.
[I’m going to quickly summarize the story of the mouse that got into the structure a few days later to the great excitement of the cats. We got the mouse out, but the cats didn’t believe us and tried various extermination efforts for another week or so.]