Tuesday, December 16, 2008


The Heathen Family has a fake Christmas tree. With our tenuous financial situation it has never seemed prudent to pay for a new tree every year, when we could have a reusable tree for nearly the same one-time price.  We don't live in the country, so there's no peer pressure to get the real thing and besides I'm not a big fan of killing a perfectly nice tree so that I can put it in my living room for two weeks.

Also, I have an irrational and persistant fear that my house will spontaneously combust, so erecting kindling in the living room would only add to my anxiety.

The presence of a plastic conifer in our lives has always been a non-issue. Who cares? We understand that the green pipe cleaners are representative of a greater German tradition. The artificial Christmas tree is symbolic. It's shorthand. Nobody in this house NEEDS to go trekking into the snowy woods with a saw in order to understand what the Christmas tree is all about. Except. Violet has never experienced any of this good old-fashioned, tree murdering, family fun and today every holiday picture book we read mentioned the felling of a noble fir.  It made me flashback to my own childhood trauma experience with cutting down a real Christmas tree.

The year was 1980something and my sister and I were bundled like tight little sausages in our spaceman snow suits. My mother and step-father took us to a Christmas tree farm with a foot of snow on the ground. I was cold and my peripheral vision was impaired by my scarf and hood. I wanted to be excited by the process, but I couldn't feel my toes.  My parents found a nice tree. They began to waver and decided that they should look a little more. They were also afraid that this nice tree would get snatched up by someone else, so they made us girls stand next to it while they looked around.  Suddenly, it was just me and my little sister all alone in a frozen wilderness. I started to panic. I couldn't see my parents anymore and my lack of peripheral vision was making me feel like unseen gnomes or strangers were waiting to leap out from behind a tree and kidnap me. I began screaming at the top of my lungs for my mother to come back. Clearly, I was the only one who feared for our safety. Of course, they were right nearby and could still see us kids, but it didn't abate my terror.  It was wholesome family fun.

Aaron and I have discussed it and during a future holiday season we will take Violet out into the faux wilderness and let her execute pick out her very own real Christmas tree. I believe in the gift of experience. I really do think it is important for her to connect to the origins of the tradition, but it is our hope that the entire event will be so miserable that she never asks to do it again. I'm not going to abandon her in a grove of snow covered trees, but a little misplaced pine sap and some sharp needles will go along way to making my little princess daughter howl in agony.

I know. Wholesome family fun.

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