Tree trimming is only the icing on the cake!

It’s time to head out to the tree farm, climb aboard the wagon, listen to the sleigh bells and the laughter of other families, and get the tree for the holidays.

With one exception this has been our pattern since our firstborn in 1978.

It’s fun. It’s fun to run from tree to tree yelling, “this one’s perfect; no, this one’s perfect!” and we all yell t-i-m-b-e-r as the tree topples softly into the snow.

And for even more years than we’ve been cutting down our tree, we’ve been dealing with the activity that most bonds Canadians together at this season.

It’s not untangling masses of lights.

It’s not unplugging and replugging mini lightbulb after mini lightbulb in the search for the one that’s gone out and thrown out the entire string of 200 bulbs.

It’s not wondering why the dog ate the varnished cookie decorations that we put up last year.

It’s not listening to the kids argue about who put the angel on the treetop last year.

It’s not debating whether the CD player should hold Christmas Carols or Guns ‘n Roses as the decorations hit the boughs.

It’s getting the tree in the stand.

Actually, it’s getting a tree stand that holds the tree.

We started in 1970 with one of those green and red stands from Canadian Tire that I think cost $1.99… you know, they had three little green prongs that acted as the feet and the “dish” that held the tree stump was the size of a tea saucer to hold water to keep the tree from dropping its needles. Never mind that a cut tree needs a gallon of water a day.

Oh? You still have one of those? And you’re about to embark on the end-of-year, celebratory challenge? Well, read on…

We moved from that to a tree stand whose watering cup was more like a soup can and whose legs were more substantial. They hinged and had little metal feet on the end. It didn’t really give us success, but it got us through the next couple of years… I think.

I was very excited one year when Robinsons Hardware (they were still downtown on Dunlop St) carried these incredible flying saucer type tree stands. They held a few gallons of water and had sharp pokey things on the bottom that jabbed upwards into the base of the tree and little arms that screwed in from the base to hold the tree up. The theory (note the word ‘theory’) was that the weight of the water could keep everything upright as well as keeping the tree from thirst. Good theory. A win-win-win, from my point of view. We made the investment ($12.99, I think).

Well, it worked like a charm. We got the tree up, lights on, and the kids dangled every ornament we had at the four foot mark because that’s how high they were. The Angel must have seemed to be in heaven to them! We sat down to dinner one night with our babysitter, Leanne Noble, present because Mom and Older Kid were going out and leaving Leanne and Younger Kid at home. We’d just tied the bibs on the kids. “Who left the tap running,” I asked, heading into the bathroom to turn it off. No tap running. Strange. I can hear water running. Kind of glug-glug-glug-ing, actually.

Leanne and I had the same thought at the same time and dashed for the living room to find the 1984 Christmas miracle tree stand pouring several gallons of water onto the living room broadloom, the ornaments and lights crushed under the weight of our now horizontal tree. As we lugged the tree outside, Leanne’s only comment was, “great school speech material!”

There are years I’ve contemplated hanging the tree from the ceiling, suspended magically by a wire that runs right through the angel.

My parents used to use a bucket of coal. Our fondest childhood memories include my father yelling (yes, I think that’s what it could be called) at my mother to make sure the tree was straight because he was pouring the coal in. His voice was coming from somewhere in the tree branches. It never seemed like much fun, so we never tried it.

My friend Simone says she and her husband have the perfect tree stand… one year he stomped out to the garage, grabbed a blow torch and a welding tool and attached steel legs to a steel drum. The thing weighs a ton, and the tree’s been in place since. She didn’t say what the drum gets filled with… bet they had some interesting tree installation scenes before this got invented!

I’m pretty sure those trees that you buy already potted came about as the result of a few years of struggling with tree stands.

One year we bought an iron tree stand. Very pretty. Very antique-looking. It worked so well we were smug. And the following year we couldn’t find one of the three legs that held it up. We looked everywhere. Talk about being stumped!

For the past few years we’ve had the best solution in all 30 years that we’ve been attempting this… we have a large plastic tub-like thing with legs that swivel out and an outside cup that nestles on the rim of the tub with a siphon hose that ensures the tree will always have a drink. Sounds ingenious, doesn’t it?

It works like a charm. As long as we tie cord around the trunk of the tree about half way up, and anchor the cord in two directions on nails carefully inserted into existing holes in the wainscotting, with a third anchor line ensuring that some geometric theory is in play. The siphon doesn’t work. We’ve tried sucking the water through it, pouring it in to get it started… oh, you don’t want to know.

I think the Christmas Tree installation is as much a part of the tradition as anything else. What do I love about this season? Thinking about other people and what they would like to receive. Thinking about this glorious community and its generosity of spirit. Thinking about tissue, and bells, and creating things that are functional, consumable, and enjoyable to receive. I like to think about just about anything except how to get the tree to stand up.

Surely some Canadian corporation, like Noma, or like my friend’s husband Art, could take on this project and bring true peace to the process.