The same artificial Christmas tree has graced the corner of my living room for almost two decades now.
Not in a ‘Miss Havisham’s wedding cake’ kind of way, obviously.
I mean, I’m as lazy as the next person when it comes to putting stuff away, but that’s more dusting than I ever plan to do.
No, every December for the past 17 years or so, I’ve pulled it out of storage, assembled it, wrangled its wiry branches into something sort of conical and decked it out in red and gold ornaments – all purchased around the same time as the tree itself.
This is not a top-of-the-line model by any stretch. In fact, I picked it up in a post-season sale for $20. So, at this point, it owes me nothing.
If, on the other hand, it weren’t an inanimate object, I would certainly owe it an apology and probably a decent burial. Allow me to explain.
A few Christmases ago, presumably in a rush to either get the tree up and decorated or down and back into its box, I managed to snap off one of its legs.
Possessed of the sort of waste-not-want-not mentality that comes with being raised by a single mother, rather than swap it out for a new tree the following year, I simply pulled out my trusty bottle of Gorilla Glue, (known for such past repairs as ‘cup handle’, ‘dryer-door handle’ and ‘refrigerator-door handle’) stuck the leg back into place and finished either putting the tree up or taking it down.
Of course now, with one of the legs glued firmly into its slot in the base of the metal trunk, I have to slide the base off the tree to fit it all back in its box.
Each year, when I haul it out and reconstruct it, I must wedge thick stacks of cardboard under the feet in order to make it stand up straight. To get the cardboard slabs to stay in place, I wind each one in packing tape and tape them, in turn, to the tree’s feet.
The whole mess is hidden under a festive skirt, but it’s so precariously balanced that most evenings I just leave the lights off rather than risk toppling the tree by reaching into the corner to plug it in.
It is, by far, the most economical part of my holiday preparations. But even I have to admit, it’s getting a little sad.
Lord knows, I’m not one to shy away from a painfully strained metaphor, so it’s hard not to see my aging tree as a (leaning) stand-in for a pretty rough couple of years.
This bleakness becomes even more pronounced as we approach the holidays and are advised against unnecessary travel on our flood-crippled highway system. With the arrival of a new, more transmissible, variant it’s looking like this Christmas season will once again involve smaller in-person gatherings, with visits happening via Zoom instead of around the dining room table.
We’ve become experts at making-do – at gluing and taping and covering it all in festive wrapping.
Unlike last year, this Christmas we have vaccines, which, much like the packing tape, are holding things together. But they’re not a magic bullet and we still have to exercise caution if we don’t want the whole thing to come crashing down on us.
Terrible metaphors aside, the main reason I’ve held onto my busted-up tree for this long is that I struggle with my lack of options for disposing of it.
It’s a combination of plastic and metal, so it can’t be recycled, and it’s in no condition to give away or donate to a thrift store. Which leaves either throwing it in the trash or taking it out into a public square and torching it, Fox News style. Neither option seems all that environmentally friendly.
At this point, I confess, I’m tempted to combine the two – toss it into a dumpster and set it on fire.
Come to think of it, if we’re searching for the perfect metaphor for the past two years, that may just be it.
Merry Christmas, and here’s to a better year ahead.
Brenda Anderson is editor of the Peace Arch News.