One of the highlights of the Christmas season for our family has always been trimming the Christmas tree. This year, we enjoyed it so much, we did it twice.
Although John and I have always been fans of real trees, Andrew’s first Christmas fell at the same time he was a baby crawling around putting everything in his mouth. Because I didn’t want to be constantly watching for him to learn how pine needles taste, we switched to an artificial tree that year. We’ve had an artificial tree ever since.
Last December we had babies of another kind: two inquisitive, frisky, seven-month old kittens, Mario and Oreo, who climbed our artificial tree every chance they got. They were in the poor tree so often that they broke the hinges that were supposed to keep the branches upright. At the end of last Christmas, our fake fir made Charlie Brown’s scraggly specimen look majestic.
With our broken artificial tree in a landfill, the time seemed right to return to a real Christmas tree this year. Besides, I was hopeful that the cats – by now, much more mature, sedate 19-month-olds (that’s roughly 11 in cat years, according to my son) – would not like the tree’s scent and avoid it. I guess I’m just optimistic by nature.
There’s a phenomenon in purchasing real trees that I had forgotten in the 11 years since I’ve been shopping for one – they grow on the drive home. At the store, the tree looked perhaps a bit small for our room with nine-foot ceilings. It looked massive once we got it home. It was much too big around to fit in the original spot we had chosen for it, so after some furniture rearranging, it occupied an entire corner of the room.
With Christmas music playing, Andrew and Katie trimmed the tree. They love to discuss each ornament, most of which carry a special memory or story. John’s sister Sue has a tradition of giving each of her nieces and nephews an ornament for Christmas. Each child has his or her own theme. For example, Andrew always gets an ornament featuring a snowman, and Katie always receives a stocking ornament. They love to rediscover the decorations that have spent a year packed away in the attic and find the perfect spot on the tree to hang them.
True to my penny-pinching nature, I’m happy to be reminded of great bargains on some beautiful pine cones dipped in silver and the silver-plated star tree topper that I picked up for next to nothing when I worked at a department store in Columbus, Ohio.
Also because of my penny-pinching heart, just in case my optimistic forecast about the cats staying out of the real tree was unfounded, we decided not to use any of our fragile ornaments.
After every unbreakable ornament was in place, Andrew and Katie went off to bed, a bit late for a school night, but satisfied with the tree-trimming evening. Shortly, I heard the distinctive rustling of branches and ornaments that comes from a cat in a Christmas tree. I shooed Mario from his perch a foot up the tree, stepped out of the room and heard a thud a few minutes later.
It turns out I’m a bit too optimistic about cats resisting trees. The lovingly decorated eight-foot tree was laying on its side, dumping tree-preservative-laced water on the wood floor and wool area rug. Ornaments and needles were scattered everywhere, and the carefully strung lights were in a tangled, jumbled knot.
But, fortunately, I’m married to the kind of guy who keeps Quikrete in the garage.
After we cleaned up the mess, John took the fancy (patented, it says on the label) tree stand outside, flipped it over and filled the underside with the quick-setting concrete. Twenty-four hours later, we were at it again, trimming the tree which is now held by a 50-pound stand that John swears will act as a counterweight should the cats decide to climb the tree again.
The cats have two weeks left to prove him wrong. This time, I’m not making any predictions. Let’s just say I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re decorating the tree a third time. On second thought, I will predict this: If there is a third tree-trimming evening in the Pampuch household this holiday season, I’m sure Andrew and Katie won’t mind.