The Christmas Tree Tutorial — Perfection in 10 OCD Steps
I was talking about decorating Christmas trees with my parents recently. My mom was actually complimenting our new fake tree this year, which is huge since they are die-hard real tree only people.
We began sharing tales of Christmas trees past, including our own version of the Griswolds venturing out to cut down a fresh tree one year on a pitch-dark school night. As we ribbed my parents for their shared perfectionism, we just HAD to bring up their history of “creating” 100% perfect, natural trees.
How does one go about manufacturing perfection from something made in nature, you ask? Let me explain.
- First, you go out in daylight. (Lesson learned from the Griswold experience.)
- Second, head to farthest corners of the tree lot and ask staff to line up trees that are packed as deeply out of reach as possible. (Don’t you know all the trees in front have been picked through and rejected for one reason or another? Rube!)
- Third is to select the tree with the widest base, while still maintaining its conical shape. Ensure there aren’t any bald spots on any side. (Yes, even the back side, facing the wall matters.)
- The fourth step is to shake all tree branches vigorously to see if needles fall off. Some always will, but if too many shed, the tree is too dry. Begin again from step 1 with a different tree. (You want the real tree smell without the mess of too many needles to force messing up perfectly aligned vacuum marks.)
- If the tree passes all 4 criteria in the lot, you have them cut a slice off the bottom of the trunk, wrap it up and tie it to the roof of your car for the Fifth Step in the process: Bringing it home. (You didn’t bring your own blankets for under the tree to protect your car from scratches? This isn’t amateur hour, people!)
- Step Six involves getting the tree inside the house. You will have had to complete proper indoor set-up before this juncture to achieve true perfection status. (Set-up steps include — Line pathway from garage door to final resting spot with towels, tarps, or plastic sheeting to catch needles and sap. Bring out plywood board, previously painted dark green with matching piano hinge for easy storage, and set it up in chosen tree spot. Place tree stand in exact center of plywood board. Use compass and protractor to achieve true center.) Carry the tree inside to the chosen spot. Place the trunk in the tree stand, but do not screw the fasteners in place yet.
- Step Seven is a two-man team activity. One spouse (usually female, but this can be flexible if the perfection gene in your twosome is stronger in the male), stands back and gazes at the tree from all angles, directing the tree holder to tilt various degrees in different directions to assure perfect straightness of the tree. This step could take over an hour depending on experience. Once the spotter is satisfied, crank the screws into the tree trunk to hold it in precisely that position.
- Power tools may be needed for Step Eight. We’ll wait while you retrieve your power drill and Sawzall. If you have been truly successful in choosing the perfect tree (see Step 3), you may be able to skip this step. However, Mother Nature likes symmetry, not perfection, so to achieve the truly PERFECT tree, you’ll probably need this. Step Eight requires you to identify any bald spots or open patches where a branch would fill out the tree and make ornament hanging perfection possible. Follow the negative space in the tree to the trunk where a branch should be. Mark the trunk with an “x” in permanent marker. This is where you will drill a hole to insert a new branch. Step 8.2 requires you to select any hanging branches from the bottom of your tree that might sweep too low to the ground. Any branch whose needles are less than 4 inches to the floor are candidates. With your Sawzall (or hand shears if the branch is narrow enough), cut the branch from the trunk of the tree at an angle. This angle will be what you insert into the drilled trunk hole from Step 8.1.
- Step Nine is a simple matter of matching the right cut branches to the right trunk holes to fill in your tree to ensure that all ornaments may be hung at exact intervals.
- Now you are ready to actually decorate your tree, which is Step Ten. In my parents’ house, this means stringing white lights, and hanging hand-tied ribbons, and a collection of family ornaments, followed by sprigs of white baby’s breath. Yes, my mother gets baby’s breath at the florist every year for the tree. You can choose your own theme, just be sure that whatever lights, ribbons, garland, and ornaments you choose are equally spaced and all adornments are nestled in the perfect location.
Once upon a time, I lived in the house of the perfect Christmas tree. It was real. It was huge. And it was the inspiration for countless exclamations of wonder and compliments. Every year, I loved sitting beside this perfect tree, breathing in the heavenly scent of fresh pine and basking in the glow of boughs wrapped in mini lights with such precision, you couldn’t even tell there were cords.
Fast forward thirty years and in the present day, I live in continual chaos, in a house full of clutter and I have broken the rule I swore I never would. I have a fake Christmas tree. There, I said it. Fake, fake, phony, fake. And I love it.
I love my parents, too, but this time of year, I wonder how and why the “Perfection” gene skipped me. I also thank God that my perfect parents found each other. Especially today, on their anniversary, I think of them both and their tree and know there is no better match for either of them. It’s even better that they acknowledge their craziness when it comes to perfection and allow all of us normal people to tease them about it.
Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!! Love you lots!