A festive sign featuring the word “PEACE” in large letters is in a prominent location at the center of our family Christmas tree. Unfortunately, the tree has been a source of unrest and strife in our home since we chopped it down and brought it home a little over a week ago.
It may be unfair to single out the tree, because it has had a partner in creating chaos — our housecat, Bay.
Much like the Griswold’s in “Christmas Vacation,” our family searched out our perfect Christmas tree on the day after Thanksgiving. We found our tree at the Clear Creek Christmas Tree Farm. The excursion to the farm was a lot of fun with our crew searching for the tree, cutting it down with a bow saw and then dragging it back out of the woods.
Our tree, nearly 8 feet tall, turned out to be a little taller than the 6-footer we had originally come seeking. It was a beautiful Leyland Cypress, growing on a hill near the back of one of the fields at the tree farm. The sunlight must have been hitting it just right that afternoon, because the decision to make it our tree was unanimous.
With the tree loaded on top of the “Family Truckster” (our 2008 Honda Odyssey), we made the short drive back to Jasper. As I dragged the tree from the van into our home, it suddenly looked much larger than it did in the field. Once it was lifted into place on its stand, the top of the tree was just tickling the ceiling in our living room.
The tree went into place on the first try, and our daughters worked much of that afternoon to place the lights and ornaments. After the decorating was finished, we realized that we forgot to put the tree skirt around the base before securing it. I asked if we could just cut a slit in the skirt, but I was quickly reminded that it had been hand crocheted by my wife’s late grandmother, so cutting it in any fashion was not an option.
As we talked about buying another tree skirt, I noticed our cat circling the tree. Moments later, he pounced toward a low-hanging ornament, knocking it to the ground. Bay then dashed toward the ornament, pawing it across our living room like a hockey player moving across the ice with a puck, before slapping it hard against the wall. With a crash, the first ornament was broken.
This game of hardwood hockey must have tired out our precious feline, because he immediately headed back to the tree, but this time he stuck his face in the base to get a drink of water.
Low-hanging ornaments were moved higher up the tree before bedtime that night. The tree had a slight lean to it, but we attributed that to the way it had grown on the hillside.
About 15 minutes after we had all gotten settled into bed, we heard an awful crash. It was obviously the tree. Andrea and I looked at each other and simultaneously said, “We will deal with it in the morning.”
I got an early preview of what had happened when I went for a glass of water in the middle of the night. The tree had crashed like someone who had come home after a night of drinking. It looked awful. More ornaments were broken. It was only after I heard a loud “MEOW!” and saw Bay sitting innocently in front of the tree that I realized exactly what had happened; the cat did it.
For the next week, the tree was up and down about as many times as the sun. Andrea and I posted to social media several times about the problem, leading our “friends” to send us funny photographs and videos of cats and Christmas trees. My favorite suggested the only way to save the tree would be to Saran wrap the cat.
While the cat had caused much of the problem, the tree did lean a little bit too. Each time we lifted the tree, we seemed to get it a little straighter. We also started spraying the cat with water when he would go near the tree. The first few times he seemed to think it was a game. Now the spray just ticks him off so he’s staying away. I’m happy to report the tree has been standing since Friday, and that is a new record.
We have gone as far as to put a new tree topper and skirt on the tree, and we’ve even placed the more precious ornaments. With that being said, I still don’t have high hopes that it won’t crash again before the holidays are over. If it does, we may start a new trend by having the first horizontal Christmas tree.
James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at 205-221-2840 or firstname.lastname@example.org.