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Suburban Island

The Tree Battle
Friday, Dec. 13, 2002, 11:37 p.m.

Question: How Can I Make the Process of Purchasing a Christmas Tree as Difficult as Possible?

What I Learned: Get the Tree and Get It Now.

I need a tree. I need a tree now. Others in our household would drag their feet forever if they thought they could get away with it. The tree battle is one that our family fights every year. Most of us – me and the kids – want a big tree as soon as possible each Christmas season and we want to keep it up as long as possible after the holidays. Furthermore, we will use any excuse – lately we have seized on the concept of Little Christmas (quite successfully I might add) - to extend the life of our tree beyond December 25th. I recommend this tactic to you as a nice way to get some extra mileage out of the tree when certain factions of the family are clamoring for a return to the pre-Christmas order of life.

The other aspect of the battle is the tree itself. Fake. Real. Real. Fake. What will it be?

As we gear up for holiday festivities each November, my husband reminds us that he believes he is allergic to the real trees, while the kids and I insist that Christmas with a fake tree is just improper. There are a number of minor plays on both sides to get the other to concede the point. Size of tree is argued. Placement is always a good point to quibble over. Also, actual date of acquisition can become a major negotiating ploy. The tree conflict usually ends when I drag a huge sweet-smelling Douglas Fir into the house with zero notice. “Too good a deal to pass up,” I say. “Hurrah,” the kids yell. “Skunked again,” the husband is most likely and rightfully thinking. All this is equally true but perspective is everything, isn’t it?

The live versus artificial question is a hot topic in our household again this year, even though we have gone LIVE for many years. Bottom line - live smells nice. Problems – it’s messy and that maybe-allergy thing makes us feel guilty for a few minutes before we drag in the tree and starting stringing it with lights. On the other hand, fake can go up in October and stay up through February if you like. A terrifying prospect to my husband; allowing the door to be opened to many a needle-dropping mammoth tree in past years. To sweeten the pot and confuse the question, these days you can get big, perfect-looking trees pre-lit or fiber optic.

So, what's a girl to do?

Well, I’ll tell you what I did. I went to Target and tried to buy the artificial tree. Everyone finally agreed what with the fiber optic thing, it might be okay and at least we could stop hearing about the allergies and the needles on the floor and the fire hazard issues and who has to put the water in the stand each day.

Life is never that easy, is it? Target has no one in their Seasonal Department that is not on break. I believe there is a valid reason for that. They are probably on break because they don’t have the stuff you want in stock when you finally hit upon the object of your holiday-purchasing desire – in this case a 7 foot fiber optic beauty that made me lay to rest most of my pine-scented Christmas tree fantasies for the reality of big-time convenience.

Alas, even after our young Seasonal Department worker finally arrived on the scene, only to deliver the unhappy news that this tree – Tree # 22 – was out of stock, we still had work to do. There was much fruitless following about and a stint outside the stockroom door but eventually we were handed a stock number on a slip of paper and were directed to Customer Service at the very far end of the store. The nice lady at Customer Service called all the Target stores in the area only to deliver, at several minute intervals, the sad news that yet another Target did not have any more of the, evidently, wildly popular Tree # 22.

Tomorrow, the hunt begins anew. Wish me luck. Who knows, I am getting a hankering for fingers sticky with pine resin and undergoing hours of pine needle scratches as I struggle with an impossible tangle of lights. Old habits do die hard but #22 is starting to take hold of my imagination.

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