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It's smaller, but its branches are still lovely


In the weeks before our cross-country move to a small condominium in the Boston area, our house became bulimic. There were about 10 carloads of Goodwill donations, two charity pickups, Craigslist ads, an unsuccessful garage sale, too many garbage bags to count, and of course a moving truck full of the things we kept. We purged and purged and purged.

Of all the items I parted with, our 7-foot-tall, Jaclyn Smith, prelit artificial Christmas tree hurt the most.

Don’t get me wrong, the stainless steel gas grill our colleagues chipped in to buy us for our wedding definitely stung. The outdoor dining set at which we ate the barbecue from the gas grill wasn’t easy, either. My husband still shudders over losing the one piece of furniture he had selected: a dining room table with ingrained wood and chairs with padded leather seats.

But, for me, none of those compared with the tree. The tree represented home. You can have a pad where you crash, you can have living quarters, hell, you can even have a mortgage, but it takes something special to have a home.

We had dated only a few months when my now-husband and then-boyfriend moved into my one-bedroom apartment near Las Vegas’ Chinatown. Still semiset in our single ways, we both flew to our respective “homes” for those first couple of Christmases.

After moving out of the apartment and into a rented house, we started spending the holiday together, but still with our parents and siblings. One year with mine, the next year with his.

When we bought our house, though, money got tight and staying in Vegas didn’t seem such a horrible idea.

Our tree had always been a hand-me-down from my sister in Utah. Its small stature made perfect sense in that one-bedroom apartment, but the bigger our places got, the more it seemed to shrink. Once we bought a house with vaulted ceilings, our little tree looked like a horse jockey on an NBA basketball court.

The thing is, the only time you think about upgrading your fake Christmas tree is, shockingly, at Christmastime. For years, I talked myself out of investing in a bigger one for one reason. A big, brilliant tree kind of loses its luster with no presents under it.

But, last year that little tree gave up. No mas, it whispered, in late November. Don’t worry, it got a proper burial, complete with jingling bells and a beautiful eulogy from the angel that topped it for so many years.

The mourning period lasted a solid five minutes before the hunt for its successor began. I jumped in the car so fast, driving from store to store while sucking a candy cane and bumping “Oh, Christmas Tree.” But, nothing kills a woman’s jolly holiday spirit like exorbitant sticker shock. The cost of these trees made me want to punch Santa so hard his elves would feel it.

Good thing for the entire North Pole, Kmart still believed in a thing called reasonable prices. And, good thing for me, the hottest of Charlie’s Angels, Jaclyn Smith, made the perfect tree for $199.99.

Last year at this time, we had presents, holiday music, cookies, and overlooking it all was that grand, glorious, long-awaited tree. But it didn’t make our home home. Over the course of seven Christmases, we did that all on our own. That big tree just embellished it.

But big trees come in big boxes, and little condos in the Boston area simply don’t accommodate them. Don’t worry, we bid it a proper farewell, complete with a drumline of Little Drummer Boys and a Rudolph-led escort to its next home.

As devastatingly sad as it might seem, this story has a happy ending. My living room now smells like Mrs. Claus’ kitchen, like Frosty’s buttons, like Baby Jesus’ binky, like the hope that hangs mistletoe, like a spiked egg nog toast, like crowded mall parking lots. That’s right, it smells like Christmas.

For a bargain price of $60, we recently hauled a 6 foot, 100 percent real tree atop one of our cars and up three flights of stairs. We twisted and turned the screws of the stand until the tree was sturdily in place, and we fill a pitcher with water to nourish it every day.

Real trees take work, just like homes do.

Contact Xazmin Garza at startswithanx@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.