David Schiefelbein: When the Christmas tree topples
Snap! That one sound can have such a lasting impact for the short duration its waves disturb the environment around it.
For me, lying on my stomach under the artificial Christmas tree, it was the sound of finality. As I wiggled my way out from under the fully decorated imitation pine, I knew my experiment in “I can fix it” was over.
After we hauled all the tubs of decorations from the attic to the great room Friday afternoon, the excitement began to build.
Our 5-year-old daughter was disappointed we weren’t putting everything up that night, but she understood and waited patiently for Saturday.
When we unpacked the tree, we were reminded the stand had broken the previous year. The first clue was one of the four cross braces was itself in two pieces.
“We tried to replace it last year, but you have to have the serial number off the box,” my wife dutifully reminded me in answer to the blank, distraught look surely creeping across my face.
“Oh, yeah,” I mumbled. “We were going to get a new tree this year, weren’t we?” That was when times were going to be better this year. They are, but not enough to allow the purchase of a new tree.
The company that manufactured the tree knew it would last several years and the cardboard box not nearly that long. The paperwork we kept was useless.
On Saturday, my wife went to track down a used stand at a consignment shop, and the tree seemed to hold pretty well once we put all the branches into their fittings on the metal pole.
After we ran the lights around it, the kids, 7 and 5, delighted in running silver beads and hanging ornaments – each one a surprise remembered as it came out of its wrapping.
Once it was decorated, we noticed it was leaning. The weight had shifted the pole in the stand. We tried to adjust its alignment between the three bolts that held it in place, but that just made it worse. The weight was too much.
Unwilling to be defeated by an inanimate object, I considered alternatives.
“I can try fixing the plastic cross piece,” I suggested to no one in particular.
While digging through the cabinet, I came across a tube of “As Seen On TV” epoxy, the kind that comes in a plastic tube and handles like clay and hardens like steel.
I wrapped the broken plastic piece in it and waited.
Early Sunday afternoon, I was under the still-fully decorated tree. My wife and I picked the tree up out of the metal stand and set it back down on the floor. Next I slid the repaired plastic stand next to the tree. We lifted the tree up and aligned it in the stand, then let go of the weight by easing it back down, which was followed by the unmistakable sound of finality – snap!
Out from under the tree, which was now leaning at a 25-degree angle into the corner, we considered our options.
A new artificial tree was not one of them; maybe in the post-Christmas clearance markdowns, but not now. There’s a live tree, but that would cut into the budget for buying the kids and family presents.
“I could cut down a cedar in the yard,” I suggested. “We already have the stand.”
That suggestion was met with the comment, “I don’t want a bedraggled, Charlie Brown reject tree,” from my wife.
I started to object – “What’s wrong with Char …”, but her look cut me short.
We settled for the 3-foot fiber optic tree we still had in the attic. It’s set up on a small table, surrounded by some of our favorite ornaments.
It all worked out. The kids don’t have to PULL the ornaments and hooks off the tree to play with them, and they always put them back on the table in a different spot, so the scenery is constantly rotating.
And there’s still the cedars out in the yard … Merry Christmas.
I’ll be looking under the couch and down the seat cushions for missing ornaments, so e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org.