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COLUMN: Who knew the Christmas tree needed a girdle?

Where there's a will, duct tape, a welcome mat, and some wood slats, there's a way
This tree is only pretending to be majestic.

This is an Instagram versus reality story, and Chevy Chase will likely be in the film adaptation. 

Maybe it’s too many Hallmark movies, but every year my husband and I get very excited about picking up a Christmas tree and setting it up at home, Christmas movies in the background, egg nog in our mugs, slow-motion laughing, sparkling ornaments, all nine yards of red velvet ribbon. 

Idyllic, blissful, joyful, magical even! Yeah right. 

I love a fresh tree, this year we opted for the old-timey charm of a long needle and purchased a Scotch Pine, the pokiest of the pines. 

I can tell you it takes exactly one year to completely forget the struggle that is the Christmas tree stand. Because we forgot. We jammed that skinny trunk into the decade-old forest green bucket and tightened the bolts, stood back, and watched our Scotch Pine timber gradually to the floor, dropping those dagger needles along the way. And then we remembered the Decembers of the past, the tree felling we did not intend.  

My parents were visiting at my invitation, which promised a charming Christmassy evening of decorating a tree in a house that smelled of cinnamon, oranges, cloves, and an evergreen forest. Next Christmas, my motto will be, under-promise, over-deliver, or just plain deliver. 

My most generous, peacemaking mother, offered to hold the tree while her daughter and son-in-law manoeuvred the base, twisting the bolts as far as they would go, willing them to out-perform their insufficient engineering and help our tree defy gravity. 

Did I mention the trunk had more curves than Keeping up with the Kardashians?  

“Is it straight?” my husband would ask, face spotted red and peeking through the violent lower branches. 

“Maybe if we twist it,” I respond. 

My mom observed the buckling plastic of the tree stand. My dad shed light on the “dumb design.” And yet, we had but one option, keep trying to get the stupid bolts into the stupid tree trunk and hope it friggin’ stands. 

I added water to the stand in a moment of misplaced optimism, leaving us with a wet hot mess, instead of a dry hot mess. 

Finally, we agreed to take a step back and really think through the problem. My parents left as I apologized for the chaos and absolute lack of any kind of tree decorating. 

My gracious mother said, “don’t worry, you’ll get it!”

My hilarious father said it was fun anyway, “like something from Christmas Vacation.”

My husband yelled, “where’s the Tylenol?”

Behold, the monstrosity that lies beneath the tree skirt. 

While we took a thinking break, the tree toppled again, the dog stared at it, then at us, then he tip-toed upstairs to his quiet room. He’s the dramatic one of the family.

My conclusion was to replace the tree stand, my husband said we needed to add to the tree trunk. Not an engineer among us. 

Since it was 8 p.m. on a Sunday, we had one option to purchase supplies - Walmart. They had one tree stand, the same model we already had. 

There was a shocking lack of supplies in the “things to make your tree trunk bigger” department. We might have had better luck in my email spam folder. 

As my former editor and Clint Eastwood used to say, we needed to “improvise, adapt, and overcome.” 

Naturally, we bought a welcome mat. 

The moments that followed are shrouded in a cloud of desperate, manic hope that manifested into a sort of crazed MacGyvering. We mercilessly chopped off the bottom 16 inches of branches, wrapped the trunk in the welcome mat, duct taped that together, stuck in excessive slats of finished oak, leftover from our stairs, and shoved that monstrosity into the new model of the old tree stand. We prayed and twisted those bolts, while our insides twisted into special holiday knots of anxiety and stress.

And lo, the tree stood up, sassy curve and all. 

Did the bottom look like a science project by the toddler son of Red Green? Absolutely. 

But what is a tree skirt for, if not to hide the makeshift trunk girdle welcoming visitors into our home? 

Stack a few empty gift bags at the base and voila the sins have been covered, and the forgetting can begin. Unless, of course, I immortalize the whole ordeal by posting about it on the internet. 

I’d love to insert a lesson here, but alas, no lessons were learned and I’m likely to repeat it all next year. It was not fun while it lasted, but it’s a little funny now. 

Happy holidays. I hope you get to laugh this season.

Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 15 years of experience as a local journalist
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