Fake Trees…A Guest Post by Wade Knapp
A Note From Bubbles…
For those of you who know me, you know I have been friends with this next guest writer since moments after meeting him almost two years ago. He’s become such a good friend because he always says the truth, even when it’s painful. I was going to go on and on about all of the new thing going on in his life right now, but sometimes you just have to let one story say it all. I asked him to consider writing this a few months ago after a very random conversation about real vs. fake trees. My personal feeling is that only this guy could write this story right now…So I’ll stop typing and let his words do the real work.
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In less than a month, I will be 41 years old. I’ve never celebrated Christmas with a real Christmas tree. 40 straight holidays and never an actual, real tree to decorate. That has to be a record. My parents owned a 4 foot tall tree that was stored in a white box with large red lettering stating the obvious, “Imitation Christmas Tree”.
I can remember my dad pulling the white box from storage every year and setting it up on our card table. My mother would put a nice sheet over the table to hide the cigarette burns and I guess make things seem more festive. The small tree could be assembled in less than 5 minutes. My mother and I would decorate the fake tree together, using the same ornaments year after year. The only new additions would be the holiday projects I crafted in school, this was back when we were allowed to celebrate Christmas in school. The holidays rarely changed when I was a kid. My parents eventually added another child, but not until I was 10. The boxes that everything was stored in began to wear and tape would be added to hold them together one more year, none of them were ever replaced though. Christmas was predictable, it was a show…it was fake, like the tree.
The reality was that my mother and father rarely got along. I only remember seeing them kiss once. And I can only remember my mother saying they loved each other once as well, my dad didn’t say it, he just looked at me and nodded. I think I was 14 when I had this brief interaction with them. 14 years is a long time for a child to never witness his parents holding hands, making out in the kitchen or hearing the term “love” mentioned in reference to the state of their marriage.
The norm for me was arguments, animosity and glaring looks. However, during the holiday season they were better. It was as if the fake tree was a reminder to suppress reality. Once the tree was up, we had family meals and discussed at length what we were doing for Christmas. Christmas was definitely family time. We spent more time together and more time with extended family members. On Christmas day, we would open gifts at home and then travel to my grandparents house to repeat the process.
I moved out of my parent’s home when I was 22 years old. Marriage was the reason I left, otherwise I might still be sleeping on the top bunk in their two bedroom house. After I left, their relationship went downhill rapidly. Even though my mother placed the blame of her failed marriage on my shoulders, I don’t take responsibility. I was 27 when they split, they only made it 5 years after I moved out. My dad has possession of the tree. It’s still in the same dingy white box with yards of masking tape stuck to it. I don’t think he sets it up anymore. Nobody goes to his house for Christmas.
Since moving out, I have been the proud owner of three fake Christmas trees. My wife and I have been married 18 years now but we aren’t likely to see our 19 year anniversary. My marriage has been faltering for several years, yet we have continued to try to stay together and reconcile our differences. However, last August the burden was too much for me and I told her I wanted out. There was no looking back, she jumped at the proposition like I knew she would. We opted not to tell our families or children until after the holidays. Not because we were working on resolving the problem, but because we didn’t want to ruin the season. Like always, we assembled our 7-foot fake Douglas fir and hid our very real issues behind it. Just like my parents used to do.
The artificial Christmas tree is convenient and easy. The average fake tree lasts a family about six years. The average length of a marriage is eight years. I should be happy. I’ve beaten both of these averages. I truly hate the notion of being an average statistic. What’s my point of this story? Are imitation Christmas trees the downfall of marriage in my family? I doubt it. I, like my parents, have used the fake Christmas tree as camouflage. It’s a convenient bandage used to cover up the scars of marriage and remind everyone that Christmas is family time, so suck it up and smile. Worry about your problems in January and maybe we will forget them altogether.
I’m making big changes this year. Not many of them will be easy, but I’m already considering a real, live Christmas tree. It’s probably the easiest decision I’ll make this year and I have to wait until December to do it.