For many, Christmas is a time of fun and excitement. Presents are exchanged, food is cooked, and celebrations occur. When you have a mom like mine, however, it’s different. Every year my mom brings out our fake tree, and the war begins. The War of the Perfect Tree. Ornaments will be broken, bulbs will blow, and angels will fall.
First the seven-foot tree has to be assembled. There are three sections: the bottom, the base, and the top. Although this sounds easy, each piece weighs about 15 pounds, and the instructions are written in every language but English. This inevitably causes a full-out brawl between me, my mom, and the prickly branches of the tree. Even though we finally win this battle, there are many more skirmishes before the war is won.
After the pieces of the tree are assembled, the mini lights have to be wrapped. Even though this may sound simple, it’s a hassle comparable to getting your teeth pulled or eating broccoli and cauliflower. Every bulb on every strand has to be checked; otherwise, the tree won’t meet Mom’s maximum light capacity. It’s a back-breaking process that is meticulous and tedious. By the time we’re finished, my eyes are glazed over and my fingers are sore.
Next, the fierce encounter with the garland begins. At least twenty feet of blue, silver, and green garland has to be draped better than the robe of a Greek goddess. The colors have to be layered in a faultless pattern around the tree to the very tip. If the strands are too close together or too far apart, they are taken down and the process begins again.
After the garland, there is yet another battle: the ornaments. My mom is an ornament hoarder. Everywhere we go, she gets a new one. Sea World, Hershey Park, Yankee Stadium – we have them all. Over the years, Mom has accumulated at least 300, and now that I’m taller than she, it’s my job to put them on the tree. If she doesn’t like the placement, I have to move them until each plastic globe is in the perfect place.
Eventually, all the memory spheres are hung and the final task begins: putting on the angel. We’ve had this angel for 12 years, and we have yet to develop a successful strategy for getting her on the tree. We always start by finding the step stool and placing her on the top; however, she has a tendency to either fall or make the tree lean like the Tower of Pisa. After an hour of “a little to the left” and “a tad backwards,” we finally get our stubborn angel to raise the white flag and stay. We let out a sigh of relief, realizing the war is over.
Although this war is tiresome, it’s worth it in the end. When all’s said and done, our tree is better than the one in the White House. Who says there’s no such thing as perfect?
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.