Of Perfection, Holidays, and a New Year in Greater Newburyport

Pondering the Problem with Perfect Christmas Trees.  

It never fails. Every Christmas I try to get a perfect tree and every Christmas it falls short.  If you saw it you might not think so.  The tree I select is always perfectly shaped, (or as perfect as trees can be); full in all the right places, fresh, with a straight trunk, and a straight branch on the top for the star.

It’s not too thin or too fat, and it fills the space in the room just so.  It’s a classic, storybook Christmas tree and I think that may be the problem – it’s not my father’s Christmas tree.

When I was a little girl I dreaded seeing the trees my father brought home.

They weren’t perfect, or beautiful.  They were problematic at best, scrawny and skinny with evergreen arms reaching out at all angles. My father was a Yankee – one of those thrifty, economical, sale-shopping New Englanders who took great pride in every penny saved or squeezed.

And squeeze he could.

Not only was he thrifty by birth, he was by profession. He was a lifelong purchasing agent in the paper mill industry who could haggle prices with the most hardened vendor. As it turns out, he bought Christmas trees this way too, and it showed.

We were accustomed to nailing wood to the bottom of the tree as a stand. We were also used to tying string around the trunk and pinning it to the wall by the windows to keep it standing upright. What we never got used to was the increasingly ugly trees my father brought home. The last one resulted in a family uprising. He brought it into the house with a big smile on his face. “Got the last one!”, he said gleefully.

The tree had so many holes that we literally had to cut branches off the bottom of the tree and drill holes in the trunk to insert them and fill the gaps.

It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I swore that someday I would buy my parents’ Christmas tree for them, and I did. When I got my first good job my brother and I bought them an expensive, perfect Christmas tree. We were so proud when we took it to them. My mother was overjoyed. My father said, “There are no spaces. Where do you put the ornaments?”

Oh Dad. Now I miss your trees.

Mine never match up to yours. They aren’t problematic, or entertaining, and none of them are memorable like yours. I think I’ll change that this year. I’m going to search for the perfectly imperfect tree that will fill my house with smiles and give me plenty of room for ornaments. I’m going to search for one that has character.

Maybe the one that no one else will buy.

When you think about it, my Dad’s Christmas trees are a metaphor for life. They were imperfect, there were gaps where they should have been growth, and they were challenging to dress up for the holidays. But they were ours and the family embraced them and used them as a centerpiece around which we made dear, precious memories.

I think I’ll live life like that in 2018.

Whatever imperfection comes ‘round the bend I’ll look it over once or twice, and then hang a virtual ornament on it to see if it makes it more tolerable.

After all, just like Christmas trees, once problems have hung around long enough it’s time to put them out.  Then you move on with the next day, the next week, the next chapter of your life.  The new year.  Adaptable.  Stronger.

Happy holidays and cheers to 20-18.


About Deborah Chiaravalloti

Deborah is a wise cracking writer with a quick wit who loves Newburyport, raised five children here and served as a VP at Anna Jaques Hospital. Her bread and butter is working as an international healthcare consultant and writer. Her philosophy in life is when all else fails- laugh- nothing else will see us through.

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