Merritt: Seeing the 'perfect' tree standing, looking magnificent, makes it all worthwhile

Merritt: Seeing the 'perfect' tree standing, looking magnificent, makes it all worthwhile
One of our "perfect" artificial trees. (Dolly Merritt photo)

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how lovely are your fake branches.

At least that’s what I thought some 25 years ago, when I decided to add a 7-foot artificial tree to our living room, the counterpart to a freshly cut Frasier Fir that we had always purchased to be placed in our family room.


At the time, our children were older, having enjoyed the real tree that we preferred. This was the time, I thought, to buy that perfect artificial tree that could be decorated to coordinate with our living room. It would be easier to put up, there would be no needle fallout, and we’d still have the beloved real tree in the family room with all our favorite ornaments.

I was surprised, however, that first year when the new tree required assembling. Each branch — labeled with a letter — had to be inserted into the openings of its metal trunk. (Easy, but far more time-consuming than sitting the trunk of a Frasier Fir into the tree stand.)

Still, I got used to the routine of putting it together every Christmas and I have great memories of our 3-year-old grandson “helping” while also learning his alphabet.

Years later, when Paul and I moved to our present home and were celebrating our first Christmas here, we continued our tradition of cutting down a Frasier Fir for the family room that our children and grandsons would enjoy. The small balcony upstairs was the perfect spot for our old faux evergreen and the high ceilings in the living room could someday accommodate another artificial one, possibly much taller.

The following year, visions of a tall tree kept dancing in my head and I decided to look for the conifer of my dreams. As I shopped, I was pleased to see so many pre-lit ones. (My old tree had not been pre-lit). Wow, I thought. We wouldn’t need to string lights, nor would we need to stick each branch into the openings as before. Only four parts needed to be connected together. How hard is that?

Once again, I could only see the advantages of another “perfect” tree, enhancing our new living room. No needle fall-out; no lights to string; and a tree decorated in enough Christmas catalog splendor to make Martha Stewart eat her heart out. With those thoughts in mind, we bought a 10-foot tree.

But all was not perfect in my sugar-plum world. As Paul and I struggled to load the heavy bulk of plastic branches into our car, risking back injury, I started wondering how we would manage to navigate it — after Christmas — down the flight of stairs to our basement to be stored. And then I wondered how we would ever bring it up the stairs the next Christmas.

But first things first. We arrived home — each of us with a firm hold on the handles of the plastic cover —heaving it from the car and dragging it into the house.

Assembling the four parts wasn’t that easy, either, as I held one portion of the branches while Paul struggled beneath me to connect the pieces together. Once that was done, the process of straightening the branches of a 10-foot tree, bent from being confined in the packaging, took more time than the usual trimming of our Frasier Fir. Still, several hours later when all the decorating was done, I had my fantasy tree at last.

All was well, until about three years ago, when Paul and I discovered to our dismay that our pre-lit tree was dark when we pushed the plug into the wall socket. We made a foolish attempt to unwind each strand of lights, removing the many plastic clamps that held the wires tightly. But after about two hours, we gave up, leaving the remaining strings of lights on the branches and covering them with new ones.

This Christmas season, after mostly mastering the kinks of putting up the “perfect” tree, it stands, magnificent in all its glittering glory, making Paul and me feel that the lugging, heaving, putting together and restringing lights from year to year has been worth it.

That is, until it’s time to take it down.

I wish you a peaceful and meaningful holiday without the stresses we can impose upon ourselves!