Three years ago, I cried at Lowe’s. Over a Christmas tree.
It was late in the tree-buying season, and my boyfriend and I headed to Lowe’s to get a tree. A real tree. None of the kids were around – two were away at college and the youngest was crazy busy with everything that happens in high school at the end of a semester. For the past several years, Lowe’s had been our go-to spot for a real tree with an affordable price tag.
I’ll start from the beginning. I grew up in New England going to tree farms to pick the biggest, fattest tree. I drove my family crazy with how picky I was. It was always cold, snow usually covered the ground, and we trudged around looking for perfection – at first cutting them down ourselves and later just picking from the pre-cut trees, standing them up one by one for their auditions.
When I had kids of my own, that continued for a long time. We visited tree farms and tree lots to find the best specimen to strap to the roof of the car. When we lived in Switzerland for a year, the real tree came with a wooden Charlie Brown stand and was tiny enough to fit on public transportation. That tree was decorated with a small string of lights, hand-strung popcorn and cranberries, and a few purchased Nutcracker ornaments. Looking back, it was one of my favorites.
My grandmothers’ trees were artificial, and so, so loved. There was Nana’s big, wide artificial tree with tons of tinsel. (Tinsel!) It seemed larger than life. Grandma mixed it up – she even had a silver one for a while. I think there was even a color wheel light for it, but I admit I might be dreaming about that.
Back to that fateful night three years ago at Lowe’s. Sometimes, the tree choices were slim in December, but this year was noteworthy. There were hardly any trees left, never mind any that would do. My boyfriend suggested an artificial tree, and I followed him to where they were set up. I started crying. I stood there a while feeling stupid while my boyfriend looked on helplessly. Then I saw it – a slim, perfect, pre-lit tree on clearance. I remembered how much I loved my grandmothers’ trees. I made peace with the changes in my family. Just like that. We bought it.
I’ve come a long way since that tearful night at the hardware store. My kids poke fun at the tree – and me – but I adore it. I love pulling it out of the bag and just plugging it in. I love cramming our ornaments onto it, especially the ones the kids made. I love not watering it and not vacuuming up its needles.
It’s perfect. Perfect for now.