Most people have traditions about their Christmas trees. They pick out the same kind and decorate it the same way every year. We don’t. The closest we have to a tradition is the loud part in the beginning, when I hold the tree upright in its stand while my husband, Dave, lies crumpled up underneath swearing I’m not holding it upright in its stand.
Neither of us looks forward to this, and that’s probably what led to the Great Tree Reduction Decade, during which we got ever-smaller trees until I suggested we skip it altogether.
Which is where Pootie comes in. Pootie is a small stuffed plush dog, and he has a lot more pull around here than he should.
He’s hard to resist. A lot of things Pootie likes line up with what Dave likes. That is why the television is often tuned to a basketball game even when nobody but Pootie is watching; that is why the heat is often on in rooms no one’s in. That is why there is a mountain of chocolate here every Easter, and why there is still a stocking for Pootie every Christmas, even though the rest of us have quit exchanging presents. And that is why we still always have some sort of Christmas tree.
The year we decided to quit altogether, Dave relayed the information that Pootie would like a small one for himself, so of course we got him one, and festooned it with dreadful ornaments we thought he’d like, including a garish star from the dollar store. That tree was about a foot tall, and it was a sight. The next year we again did not get a tree, but Pootie’s was a little larger. This went on for years until Pootie’s tree was the same size ours used to be.
I suspected I’d been hornswoggled, but Pootie had such a look of innocence in his eye-buttons that I went along with the program for a while. And then came the year I announced I just wasn’t up for getting a tree. And that year, on Christmas morning, Pootie presented me with a tiny potted blue cypress because he knew I wanted one, and we hung as much stuff as we could on it.
Every time you think Pootie has been indulged quite enough, he goes and does something sweet like that.
The cypress went outside, still in its gallon pot, while I pondered where it might reasonably be planted. Finally I decided to plant it next door, at our rental house. It was then three years old and three feet high. We took our eyes off it for a nanosecond, and when we looked again, it was 10 feet wide and 12 feet tall and utterly too ambitious for its location. We hatched a plan to dig it up and transplant it to a friend’s house, but somehow that never happened, and it kept growing, audibly, until it occurred to me: Hey, it would make a terrific Christmas tree.
This felt wrong, somehow, but after all we’d been buying trees someone else had cut down for years. This way, we’d at least own our transgression. We checked with our renter, Anna, whose kitchen-window view was fast being obliterated by a bustle of cypress branches, because we knew her to be a sensitive, plant-loving soul, and she gave us permission to do the deed.
And so we butchered it humanely (which is to say, when Anna was not watching), and now Pootie’s little 16-foot blue cypress is going out in a blaze of glory in our living room – with its nine-foot ceiling.
The top five feet of the tree stretch out across that ceiling, and the tree topper dangles straight down from the tip into the middle of the room. It’s a star; it looks fine.
An angel would have been all wrong.