I'd like to think I've started a family tradition. I call it, "How close can you come to the emergency room, death, and/or divorce while putting up the Christmas tree?" I'll let everybody know how it goes after we attempt it this year (now with 18month old Destructo running around for added difficulty rating). Until then, have a repost of last year's classic.
Ah, tradition. Making hot chocolate, watching Charlie Brown Christmas . Putting up the tree. Yelling at the wife, scaring the kids, injuring yourself. Good times.
Getting a tree with three little kids is not as hard as it might sound. You take the little one and stick him in the Bjorn carrier on one of you. The middle one, put on your shoulders. The big one gets to walk. Just remember as you weave between trees not to let any branches whip behind you, because she's gonna get them right in the face.
Mistake #1: "Honey, the guy says this one is 8 1/2 feet. I think we can go bigger." You see, the new addition in our house has something like 12 foot ceilings. I'm not figuring on a 12 foot tree, but I think there's room to go bigger than 8 feet.
We find a tree. Good size, good shape, good pricetag. The plan is simple. Feed the kids, put them down for a nap. Put tree up while kids are sleeping, then when they wake up they can help decorate it.
So kids are fed and sleeping, and I go out to drag the tree across the lawn. It's at this point I realize that this is the biggest tree we've ever gotten, since I can barely move it. I also discover that our stand from last year, plastic as it is, is broken – won't hold water. So I'm off for trip #1 to the hardware store.
I come back with a new stand, get the tree in the house, and with the help of Kerry stand it up…
…and it hits the ceiling. Damn this is a big tree.
No, wait, it's standing on the edge of the stand. A little adjustment and it drops about 8 inches. Still a big tree, but room for an angel now. Lights go on, water goes in. Kids are awake so we run out to the hardware store for extension cord.
Come back, Kerry's standing in the doorway waiting for us. "Tree fell down," she says. More to the point, over. It's now leaning against the wall. Try as we might, we can't get the thing to stand back up. Thinking perhaps that it's just too tall, we decide to get it out of the stand and trim some off the bottom. This is trickier than it sounds, since there is water in the stand. But magically we manage to make it happen. I get the reciprocating saw and hack off some of the bottom, along with a few branches getting in the way.
Still no dice. This tree is not staying up. This is one of those plastic stands with 8 screws in it (4 bottom, 4 top) which in theory makes it easier to adjust, but in reality it's just twice as much of this game: "Is it straight?" "Yes." *turn turn turn screw screw screw tighten tighten tighten* "A little to the right." Argh. The only way we can play this game is for Kerry to hold the tree while I climb under the silly thing. The game is made more exciting by Kerry's occasional shouts of "I don't have it!" followed by me crab scrambling myself backwards from underneath the thing before I, you know, die.
It's at some point during this game that the reciprocating saw got me.
Mistake #2: "I'll put the saw down over here where it will be out of the way."
I don't recall exactly what shift of tree caused me to whip my hand away from it, but fingers hit saw blade (powered off saw blade, thankfully, or else I might not be typing this) and pain and blood ensued. I then proceeded to do that thing that my dad, lifelong meatcutter, demonstrated many times over the years — right hand clamps around left and locks there, refusing to let go. This makes for a fun image. Kerry is holding up the tree. I am bleeding, possibly badly. She can't exactly help me – she couldn't gently guide the tree down if she tried. So whatever I'm gonna do, I'm gonna do by myself. I head over to the kitchen sink and unwind my fingers. Wash off the blood, keeps bleeding, re-apply pressure. I wrap it up in paper towels. Kerry's asking if I need stitches, and I'm trying to figure out whether I could drive myself to the hospital if I do and whether she'd have to sit there holding the tree for the next 5 hours :).
Luckily, though, it finally stops bleeding after something like 5-10 minutes. Couple of band aids later and I can relieve Kerry of tree duty, throbbing fingers and all.
Jump forward a few hours. Kids are awake and anxious to put up the tree. Mommy and Daddy are getting more and more frustrated. Daddy wishes they could tie the tree off to something, but there's nothing substantial to tie it to, just some picture nails. "Rope," Kerry keeps saying, "You need rope." If there's nothing to attach a string to, there's definitely nothing to attach a rope to. But I do manage to find some string and put a new nail into the window molding where it will hold a bit more steady.
Mistake #3: Failing to adjust the tree first so string does not hold entire weight of tree.
For a brief moment it looked like it was going to work. We had maybe a minute to say "Is that going to hold?" before I watched the knot slip and with a "Nope!" from me, down it came. Luckily Kerry managed to catch it so it didn't go crash again. Yet.
Around about 8 o'clock we get a new plan. Take tree out of stand so that we can take a break and regroup. Probably go to hardware store to get string, and possibly a new stand. Each time this thing falls over it pulls on the screws in their plastic housing and weakens their ability to hold the silly thing up. So I unscrew all 8 screws and Kerry's holding it. I try a few times to lift it out of the stand but it's not happening. The kids are too underfoot for this operation, so Kerry takes them upstairs for bed. It's at that point that I decide I can lift the thing by myself.
Mistake #4: Yes, you read right. I decide to lift the thing by myself.
Assuming proper "lift with your legs, not your back" posture and getting my face full of pine needles, I give a mighty heave, lift straight up, and can feel the tree clear the stand! And then I became physics' bitch as it dawns on me that I have also removed said tree from anything that was holding it straight up and down. Since it hadn't fallen over spectacularly enough yet today, apparently I thought it would be cool to, you know, lift it a few feet off the ground and then drop the sucker.
You know that scene in all the old slapstick movies where the guy in the store is carrying a stack of 50 boxes, and they get away from him and he runs back and forth trying to get under them? Yeah, that didn't happen. I did have time to get myself the hell out of the way. With a CRASH the tree was down. I check the window and television that the tree hit, and miraculously neither are broken. I recover the Christmas decorations that took the brunt of the crash and miraculous times 2, they are not broken either.
Then I heard the footsteps. Followed by a panicked scream of "THE TREE JUST FELL ON YOUR FATHER!" Love is knowing that your spouse would move faster if she thought a tree had fallen on you. 🙂 But of course I was fine so I ran toward the stairs to tell her that I was cool, that it had not fallen on me. But good news, it was in fact down. She was not in the mood to hear my good news.
That's about the end of the good parts of the story. I went out to the hardware store, got some string and a new stand. New stand was pointless, way too small. It dawns on me afterward that I keep seeing these stands that are rated for 10 ft, and I'm still mentally thinking that this tree is a little bigger than 8.5 feet, so we should be cool. Turns out that this tree is closer to 11 feet tall, which is probably a big part of the problem. But anyway, I also pick up some new string, and we come up with a compromise – we find the position that the tree wants to comfortably in, and tie it off there. That way, minimum tension on the string. No matter what "straight" means, there are just some positions you cannot get a tree to stand in. So basically, we gave up. It's straight, but it's smooshed way back against the wall. I'm not even going to think about any sort of scratches or discoloring that it's doing to my wall right now. I just don't want it to fall anymore.