Molly Hawkins, Guest Columnist

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 30, 2012

Putting up Christmas tree turns into spiritual stress test

We put up our tree Saturday. Our neighbor picked it up for us at a tree farm. It’s a gorgeous fraser fir, nearly 12 feet tall. He dropped it off Friday afternoon. My husband and I put it in the stand that night, stood it up, added water, and headed to bed.

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When I got up Saturday morning, I had that Christmasy feeling – just a hint of excitement in the air, a little spring in my step. I made my coffee, put on my iPod Christmas tunes, and got to work.

I started with the lights.  The bottom was easy. I was humming and singing right along with Andy Williams and Bing. But as I moved up the tree. things got tricky. I stood on a stool to hang the lights higher, but with the towering height of the tree, it was soon out of my reach. So I grabbed the fireplace poker, hopped back on the stool and strung more lights.  

I hung another strand around, standing on the stool on my tiptoes with the lights dangling from the tip of the poker. Before long I had again reached my limit, and there was still more bare tree to go.

Ugh, I thought.  I do NOT want to wait on Howard or Calvin to help me.  (Plus the fact that neither of them enjoy decorating the tree — and that’s putting it mildly)  I had to find a longer light-stringer.

The broom!  Grabbing the broom from the kitchen, I was back on the stool stringing lights all the way to the top.  Success! I was thrilled. I was so excited I took a picture to post my accomplishment.

That’s when things started to go downhill. Since the water bowl on the tree stand was empty, I thought I’d fill it before I began hanging ornaments. After filling the bowl I grabbed another cup of coffee. Since the hard part was done I was looking forward to hanging the ornaments.   

Coming back into the den, I spotted it — water on the floor.  What the heck?!  Please tell me this stand with this 12-foot-tall, beautifully-lit tree isn’t leaking. It was. Oh my gosh.  How do I fix this? We are NOT taking this thing back down after I worked so hard to get it lit. What to do?  Google!  I can always find an answer on Google!  

So I did the research and called Howard, who happened to be in town. He stopped by the auto parts store and picked up the stuff that I’d read was best for fixing a leaky tree stand.

After mopping up the water with beach towels and then blowing it dry with a hair dryer, I applied the fix-it stuff to the bottom of the stand.  (It was extra tricky because I was using a hand mirror to see what I was doing).  

I waited the ten minutes (which was four more than was required, according to the directions). Then I poured another watering can full of water. Yay – it worked!

I took the towels to the laundry room and returned to the den to get back to the ornaments. That’s when I spotted it — a trickle of water running down the leg of the stand.  OMG, it might as well be a flood because a trickle turns into a puddle. Grrrrrrrr!!!!

To the kitchen cabinets I went. There’s got to be something in here I can use. I found a silicone tube and the caulking gun that went with it. I cut off the tip, loaded the gun, headed to the den and squeezed the trigger.

Nothing. Not a drop would come out. Back to the kitchen, cut off more tip (just in case). Try again. Nothing. Back to the kitchen.  

I took a wire and shoved it into the opening to make sure it wasn’t dried out. It was a little dry, but still pretty sticky. The trigger still would not budge.

Taking a hammer to the end, I banged away on the back of the tube.  The silicone would Still not flow. Oh the agony!

Back to the kitchen cabinets.  I found something called “Big Gap Filler,” the foam spray stuff people use to fill space around pipes. There was a slight problem. The little straw attachment was missing.

Who cares?  I’ll spray it like Silly String!  (By then, I was getting somewhat delirious.) Back to the den, armed with Big Gap Filler and paper towels.

I repeated the whole beach-towel/blow-dryer process, too.  By this time, Calvin had come in and I got him to attempt lifting the giant tree monster off the floor so I could get a better view while I spray.

I began aiming and spraying.   Howard came in and helped Calvin lift. I was getting way more spray foam on my fingers than on the bottom of the tree stand. Howard noticed and said, “You know that stuff won’t come off of your skin.  It has to wear off.”  

What?!  @#@!#@!#!   Racing to the sink, fingers stuck solidly together, I found that he was right. I found NOTHING that would get it off of my skin — not fingernail polish remover, nor straight acetone nor olive oil.

I headed back to the den with grossly sticky, sand-papery fingers — on both hands. Howard had disappeared in search of last year’s tree stand.

Finally, he appeared from the attic, stand in hand.  So to my dismay and defeat, we (Howard, Calvin and I) had to completely tip my beautifully-lit tree on its side and switch the stands.  (The foam didn’t work, by the way).

When they stood it back up, the lights were a WRECK and the tree leaned STRONGLY to the left. In fact, it looked as if it would fall at any moment.

We used towels to prop. We used rocks. It still would not stand straight. Finally we hammered nails into the window sills and tied the dang thing to the wall with rope!  

By this time Howard was off to the deer stand, and Calvin was headed to the Egg Bowl. I was left alone with my nemesis, half of whose lights had not worked since the whole tree-stand switch thing.

But I was not to be defeated. This tree WOULD get decorated. I WILL celebrate Jesus’s birthday. I wrestled with the lights again (as the half-strand flickering continued).

Finally I got the ornaments. In my attempt to hang some on the top with the fire poker, three came crashing down to the Floor. (It’s a tile floor by the way.)

Finally about 12 hours after I started, the tree was finished, though there was still a slight leaning issue.

The next  morning, thankfully, I was pretty much over the whole putting-up-the-tree, nervous-breakdown fiasco. I headed to church just to make sure I hadn’t lost my religion completely in the episode.

(Molly Hawkins teaches third grade Merit classes at Batesville Intermediate School.)