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It just wouldn’t be Christmas without swearing under the tree

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We have a fake Christmas tree. Maybe Martha wouldn’t approve.  I’m okay with that. Some families go to tree farms and cut down the tree themselves. Some go to a tree lot and pick out the best looking, least Charlie Browniest they can find.

We used to do that. And then there was the year James brought the chainsaw into the living room, and something had to change.

We never did the tree farm thing with the kids. Just the tree lot. We’d drive down the two miles to the fruit stand that sells the Christmas Trees in December. It’s right across from the Starbucks, that we would visit afterwards, or before, or both. The guy at the lot straps the tree on top of the minivan and off we go to decorate it. It’s like Norman Rockwell. Or the Griswolds. I don’t know if the Griswolds paid $95 dollars for their Fraiser Noble, but we did.

Emma and Owen were smaller. Probably 7 and 4.  They knew what bad words were. Like ‘shit’ and ‘damn’. We tried to keep it innocent. Mostly. That would all change at the holidays.

Now, the tree strapped to the minivan was at least 8 or 9 feet tall. We wanted it grand in front of the living room window. It was also about 7 feet in diameter. And so pokey with all those pine needles. They don’t call them needles for nothing.  We, James and I,  mostly just James would lug the tree through the front door and shove it into the tree holder. This would take a lot of screaming on my part, because of the pokey needles, and that  it weighed 400 pounds at least. Getting it just so, in the hole with the screw thingys all tight meeting in the middle. This would work very easily with a 5 foot tree, about 4 feet in diameter and with a trunk only about 6 inches. This tree we got, had a trunk about a foot wide. Clearly our tree isn’t going to fit. But what’s hard about realizing this, is you are still holding this 800 pound tree (it gets heavier with each minute that passes) with all the pokey needles in your hands and up your nose and stuff. You can’t just lay down a 9 foot tree in your living room. Well, you can, but then your couch will probably have sap all over it and pine needles all over the carpet. Which are anyway after it didn’t fit through the front door and it needed to be shoved over the threshold. So I stood there holding it up and James says he’ll be right back. Meanwhile the children are anxiously putting ornaments on it while you are holding it, and you’re telling them now is not the time to hang Rudolph on the branches and that Daddy is going to fix it so we can get the tree to stay up without mommy holding it up. So BACK OFF. I mean, ‘Go watch Dora for a minute sweeties’.

So the part I haven’t told you yet, is the colorful words that come forth from daddy when the tree doesn’t fit. I don’t know why he’s the one swearing. I’m the one holding the 1200 pound tree. But I’m not swearing in front of the children, because that would be wrong. When he returns to the living room, he is holding a chainsaw. Or was it a circular saw? It was a power tool with ‘saw’ in the end of it’s name. I think it plugged in instead of using a pull string to start it. So maybe it wasn’t a chainsaw. Either way, it looked dangerous. And dirty. And not something that belongs in my living room.

Laying down the tree-very carefully-(because I am NOT holding it anymore since power tools are involved).  James starts cutting the crap out of the bottom of the stump to fit it into the tree stand. There’s wood chips flying everywhere. It was working. Sort of. What was this tree made out of, metal?  It was very loud and I worried that he wasn’t wearing protective eye wear. I think there was a knot in the branch that was at the bottom of the tree. It would be nice if the tree guys could whittle it down like a pencil to fit perfectly in the tree stand. But that’s hindsight I guess. So James fought that knot in the stump with valor. It had no chance. Eventually.

Once we heaved ho-ed it into the stand, screwed in the screws at the bottom, took turns standing across the room squinting to see if it was straight or not, James got the pleasure of getting the massive spider’s web nest of tree lights out of the bin to find that probably 3 out of 5 strands had dud bulbs in them and he needed to go to the hardware store anyway. More swear words. At this point the children have learned the finer language of truck drivers or sailors, or long shore men- just pick a profession that swears a lot and that is what the children learned.

So, to make a long story, kind of longer. We decided that even though it might not be eco friendly- totally sentimental, or even have that piney smell, it was time to get a fake tree. We didn’t care that they were made in China, that you paid about $400 for a decent one. We just wanted to save Christmas from the litany of profanity that came with the tree. It was our duty as parents.

So the next year, we packed up the kids and drove to Ace (it’s about a half mile from our house) and picked the display model that was discounted for only $150 (a steal!) and, you guessed it, went to Starbucks after to celebrate. The cool thing about most artificial trees is they come pre-strung. The lights are all good to go. You pop it together, plug it in and voila, O Tannenbaum.

Now Emma says when we put the tree up, “It’s just not the same without daddy swearing.” Cheeky.

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  1. Christopher says:

    I would have paid serious money to watch James go after it with the power tool! You really should make that part of your annual Christmas tradition, even if you’re using a fake-o tree. 🙂

  2. This all sounds way too familiar, but we haven’t given up on the real trees yet. I guess I still get a petty-manly kick out of cutting down my own tree. The first year we did it, I swear we somehow picked a tree that was shaped like an ‘S’. Honest to God, it had two curves in it. And I do not have a decent saw. I could go on, but let’s just say that there were youth from our church involved, and some not-ready-for-primetime language. Thanks for this.

  3. It’s always a lot of fighting, tears and cursing in the Gaga household, but we keep going to that dang Farm

  4. I’ve been doing it solo for 15yrs now, t gets easier every year….I was flumoxed one year early on, and it was pure joy to see headlights comming up the drive, to rescue me and my tree…it was just too too heavy that year….
    I say ‘right on Cheeky Emma, back to those ‘delightful memorable years…making more memories….nothing like it…
    Cheeky indeed,….the lass knows ‘the right of it all’

  5. As an apartment dweller my entire life our first (and only) Christmas in a real house gave us the bright idea to go to a tree lot and get our first real tree. I was 16, and intrigued so in the parking lot at Best Buy I picked the biggest sumbitch they had. His name was Lloyd. We got him home and he wouldn’t fit in the stand we had used for our fake trees of Christmas past. So to the garage he went. A couple days later my friend’s Dad overhear me telling my friend of our plight and he offered us a stand to try that was meant for large trees. Alas, it was not meant to be. Lloyd was propped up against our garage outside where I threw tinsel on him and proceeded to put up our old reliable fake tree.

    As a family we rent and for the past 8 years it’s been outlined in our lease that we cannot have a real tree. Which is fine with me. Our current pre-lit was bought 8 years ago at K-mart for $30. I JUST cut off the pre-lit lights because they stopped working (we always added lights anyways because INEEDCHASERLIGHTS). Doesn’t bother me, nothing to water, nothing for the kids to get into and I hate the smell of pine and sap anyways.

  6. That 1600 lb tree probably looked and smelled wonderful (until the needles started falling off, getting stuck in your socks and stinging your toes). Great post!!

  7. But she WOULD approve! I just got a new fake tree this year, and it’s Martha Stewart Living brand! And yes, I’m shouting because I love Martha! MARTHAAAA!

  8. Of course, Soul-sista, we have a pre-strung fake tree too. And I don’t feel the least bit guilty about it. I actually read somewhere that a real tree isn’t that eco-friendly either, unless you’re burning it for kindling or using it to make a table or your own (toilet) paper after Christmas. I don’t know, but all those trees going into the garbage truck makes me sad – kind of like some sappy children’s story.