Tears for a good tree (anytime)

January 7, 2008

Someone should have warned me that disrobing the Christmas tree is NOT a family-friendly activity if a higly sentimental 4-year-old and a highly curious 18-month-old are involved. But I didn’t know, so we spent a good three hours yesterday dealing with the aftermath.

Knowing how hard it is for M. to say goodbye, I prepped him: We spread some mulch in the record-breaking afternoon warmth, and we talked about where it comes from and how good it is for living plants and trees. And being a smart little guy, he understood what I was telling him. It just didn’t ease his misery at all — when we started taking ornaments off, he started crying. The tears ebbed and flowed the rest of the evening no matter what we did to staunch them. I fixed his favorite dinner, let him have as many bubbles as he wanted in the bathtub, read “O Christmas Tree” by Debbie Trafton O’Neil a dozen times. I even went online to the National Christmas Tree Association’s Web site for pictures of recycling programs where trees aren’t ground up into itty-bitty pieces. Unfortunately, none of them are around here — I had hoped that, since the association is headquartered in Chesterfield, there might be a recycling showcase of some kind locally. No such luck.

After soothing my own pain with half a bottle of wine left over from New Year’s Eve, I came up with a brilliant idea: a tree-unlighting ceremony similar to the ones that mark the start of the season. We always take down our tree on or around Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas — isn’t that a logical date for such an event? Then all the little kids who’re sad about the loss of their tree can get together, sing some songs, learn about what will happen to their trees, and perhaps leave feeling a little happier.

Or perhaps M. is in the minority, and most kids are more like S. He left the ornaments alone while they were on the tree (although he did try to snitch kernels from the popcorn-cranberry garlands). Once those glass balls came down, though, they were fair game. He wanted to handle every one, and his dad made a couple amazing dives and mid-air catches. Happily, no ornaments were lost, and next year we can put up exactly the same decorations in exactly the same places … on our artificial tree. Yes, the National Christmas Tree Association rants against them, and yes, we’ll lose our special ritual of going to the same farm on the same date every year to get our live one. But I’ve made my promise. M. with tree and “fire”

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