Since we moved to Chicago 10 years ago, we have lived in condos, an adjustment from our large suburban home, but a practical choice in the big city. Having cast off rooms full of furniture, we felt lighter in our new condo life, even while we bunched together on one couch to watch TV. We adjusted and found we didn’t miss the extra rooms we had hardly used (formal living and dining rooms anyone?), that is, until Christmas.
Right after Thanksgiving, a temporary tree lot appeared near the L stop in our neighborhood. We chose our tree, carried it home, and began the climb to the 3rd floor. A few tight scrapes and fallen pine needles later, we emerged into the living room to set up the tree. Of course, to make room, we had to rearrange the furniture, but after the ornaments were on, it was perfect. We had a vaulted living room, and some years chose tall trees that would take advantage of the vertical space. Unfortunately, we learned that those trees were so long, they’d get bent and battered during the tight turns up the staircase. And worse was the trip down.
After Christmas, when the tree is a crispy shadow of its former self, the trip down the stairs to the alley is a giant trail of needles. After the ornaments are all put away and the furniture is returned to its regular placement, I’m in the back stairs sweeping and sweeping needles. Needles I will continue to find till the following September. Ah, the high rise life. More than once, I contemplated hurling our tree from the 3rd floor deck. I can see the alley from there, I’m sure it would be faster. Sigh, no, we never catapulted our tree. I thought about jamming it up the chimney, Grinch-style, but I knew how ridiculously flammable it would be – not a call I wanted to make to the insurance company.
Every year, my husband makes the pitch for an artificial tree. It would be easier, cleaner, we’d always know if would be the right size. It might even be “pre-lit”, thus avoiding the curse-laden task of winding the lights around the tree, only to discover that one string was dead. But I squash that pitch. I love a live tree, I love how it smells, I don’t might watering it every day. And I don’t really mind sweeping up the needles. Or, at least, I conveniently forget what it was like for long enough to get that tree inside.
This year, we are in a new building without a vaulted ceiling, but we have an elevator. Our tree came from a lot in the neighborhood, and we successfully wrestled it into our condo with a minimum of needle loss. Happily, we even found a place to put the tree that didn’t require rearranging all of the furniture. It’s against the windows and can be seen from the street. After dark, we realized that the lights are reflected in the windows, and look amazing. In fact, it’s the best looking tree I can remember.
Of course the tree is just a prop, and the real best part of the holiday is that the kids will both be home. We’ll have fun looking over the ornaments they made, smile at the silly ones of Yoda and a robot, and bemoan those broken in the move. Before the needles rain down, we gather, relax and capture happy moments by the tree.