Christmas of 1997 we were very short on money and had tiny children who expected Santa to come through in a big way.  We could not afford to waste our limited resources on a real Christmas tree (which usually cost about 45-60 dollars around here, which, if you shop well, translates into quite a few gifts.  Especially for young children), but we didn’t want the kids to go without a tree all together.  We decided to buy the cheapest, artificial full-sized tree that we could find, use it for that one year, and then replace it the next year with a beautiful real tree again.

We trekked to K-mart and found a tree for under twenty dollars that would do.  …Barely.  It said on the box it was a six foot spruce, but I think that was being generous.  It was straggly and leaned, ever so slightly, to the left.  (The leaning tower of treeza.  …You’re welcome).  It weighs about two pounds and one set of lights (ONE set!) is really too much fire power for it to handle.  I tell you, it made the Charlie Brown tree look majestic in comparison.

So, anyway, we used it and then I stored it away (just in case.  Because tossing it seemed so callous for some reason).  At that time, I had no intention of ever hauling it out again.  …Until the next year.  When our finances were still not much better and, heck, we already HAD a tree, why waste money on another one?

Fast forward to 2009 and yep, you guessed it.  Thirteen years later we are STILL reusing that same horrible tree.  Not because we can’t afford a better one, but because my family likes THIS one.  Every year I threaten to toss it after Christmas, and every year I am convinced not to.  This tree is the only tree my poor, sad, deprived little children have ever known.  They consider putting up the tree to be a cherished holiday tradition in the same way that “normal” families cherish going to the Christmas tree farm and choosing a beauty to take home.  Putting up the tree takes all of five minutes (except for the fluffing of the branches, which has somehow become MY job),  and each year it comes out looking even sadder than the year before.  For some reason, this just brings my family such joy.

…It’s like they revel in patheticness of our tree.

Every year when my husband sees the box with it’s price tag of $16.77 stamped on it, he literally chortles with glee.  “Man, we SURE got our $16.77’s worth with this, huh?” he says, rubbing his hands together in satisfaction.  “Best $16.77 we ever spent!”

Instead of a star on the top, or an angel, we have a weird little doll we call Clove Head perched atop ours.  Clove Head was made for me by a coworker about 20 years ago with no explanation.  She’s a cloth doll with cloves glued to her head like hair, and her hands glued to her mouth.  Kind of disturbing.  Way back when, we were trying to figure out the purpose of this doll (potpourri?  Voodoo?  What?!) when my husband impulsively took a rubber-band and tied her to the top of the Christmas tree.  We thought it was funny, and the next year we put her back.

She’s still here, MUCH the worse for wear.  The kids FIGHT about who’s turn it is to put Clove Head on, and my son resists each and every mention of replacing her with a nice star.  In fact, he says he wants Clove Head when he moves out so he can use it on HIS future family’s tree.

…My future daughter-in-law is going to HATE me, no question.

Our tree has been knocked over so many times over the years  (by cats and Sawyer, it’s knocked over at LEAST five times a year) that all of our nice glass ornaments are long gone.  Every year I go out after Christmas and buy a “big-bucket-0-tacky-plastic-glittery-balls” to put on next year and call it good.  Add on all of the ornaments our kids have made in school and the paper chains and… well, you get the picture.  We know how to do ‘er up right!

In fact, Martha Stewart’s coming by tomorrow and taking pictures of our treeza for her Christmas issue 2010.   We are all using psudonyms.  I’m going by Mariah.

When I’m out and about I love to look at other people’s trees.  And I’m always surprised and jealous about how beautiful they are.  It seems other people DON’T go out of their way to tacky up their trees, but instead, try and make them as beautiful as possible.  Huh.  Who knew?

My husband has PROMISED me that we can get a real tree next year, but he’s promised that before.  And if we DID get a real tree that would require nice NEW ornaments and new lights and, and… we really could use that money more wisely on gifts…

Oh man.  I see crazy people.