The Coming of the Tree

It started a couple of days ago.

Even though we’re non-religious, Rasa loves the Christmas season. She loves decorating the house and putting up the tree and doing all the stuff associated with the holiday. At least the non-secular version. To be fair, when I was a kid, I really loved going to friends’ houses to help them decorate their trees. It’s a great family thing.

Anyway, when we first got an apartment together, after we got married and Monki was born, Rasa decided she wanted a tree. The apartment we were in, on Ukmerges Gatve, wasn’t very big and so, by necessity, neither was that first tree. It stood about 120cm (about 4 feet) and we put it in front of the balcony door (we didn’t need to go out much during the winter).

It was nice.

We decorated it and put presents underneath it and it was a nice family tradition.

Then we moved to our new place, which was considerably larger. Large enough that it could support a larger tree. Rasa decided that since it could, it should and started looking for something which wouldn’t get lost in our bigger living room. Being cost-conscious, she shopped around and eventually settled on a 180cm (about 5 feet, 11 inches) tree which she could order online and would be delivered directly to the house.

It came and we unboxed it, putting it up in preparation for decorating.

Even from the beginning though, there was something off. Sure, it was taller, but for Rasa, it just wasn’t full enough. There was too much space between the rows of branches, leaving it looking a bit too much “Charlie Brown” for her taste. Ultimately, she realized you should never buy a Christmas Tree online and we were left with the knowledge we have this one until it fell apart because, while it was not great, there really wasn’t anything wrong with it.

Last week, the end of November, with December fast approaching (December is the traditional start time for all things Christmas, and woe be me who suggests starting to decorate before the turn of the calendar page), Rasa once again began to lament our scraggly tree and how bad would it have to get before we could justify a new one. Then, on Thursday, December 1, there was a meeting at Monki’s school with the teacher and all the parents. Even though December had started, we knew we weren’t going to start decorating until the weekend, so Rasa spending the beginning of the evening out was just fine.

But then, when she came home and began to tell me what had happened, I could see the guilt in her eyes. Turns out only a few parents actually showed up and most of those left as soon as the teacher was done talking (Monki is doing great, by the way, no complaints and no worries there). The talk turned to Christmas and the teacher, who just started her career this year, pulled out whatever holiday decorations she’d managed to scavenge together, including a tired, worn-out tree. Rasa and the remaining other parents decided to help put it together and, as Rasa describes it, “it was more falling on the floor than holding together.”

This is when she had her great idea.

You can probably see where this is going, right? So as she’s taking off her coat, she looks at me and explains “I donated our tree to the class, I have to deliver it tomorrow.” She paused and looked at me. “Is that okay?”

Is that okay? Of course! How clever of her to not only contribute something to our daughter’s classroom, looking magnanimous in the process, but she also selfishly figured out a way to get rid of the eyesore she hated and justify getting us the tree she really wanted.

“It’s brilliant,” I said.

Then we started discussing the new tree. As we talked, I learned that the next size up from what we had was a 210cm (just shy of 7 feet) tree. She immediately rejected that and explained the 180 was big enough for her. I nodded agreement and suggested she go get the new tree the next morning, Friday, while I was at work and Monki was at school and thereby avoid traffic and weekend mall crowds. She agreed.

The next morning, I headed off into the 7am darkness for the last day of the semester. Being the last day, things were a little looser in the classroom, and my 9:30am creative writing class only had 3 people present. So when Rasa buzzed my phone at a little after 10, I looked to see what was up. Yes, I keep my phone off during class, as I ask my students to do, but I also have it set to let Rasa ring through in case there’s an emergency, so when it was her texting, I glanced to make sure everything was okay.

She was at the store and sending me pictures of Christmas trees, including a 210cm one, asking which I liked better. I started laughing and had to share with my class the situation. Then I responded and let her know they all looked good and to pick the one she liked, but that yes, the larger one would fit into the house.

After a few back-and-forth texts, me trying to teach and keep my students apprised of the tree scenario, Rasa decided we should all go together in the evening to make the final choice. Now, we had already decided they were going to pick me up from campus and we were going to go look at the Kaunas city tree so it made sense that we’d make a stop afterward and decide on a new tree for the house.

The City tree

This is how we found ourselves at Senukai (like a Home Depot or Lowe’s) comparing amongst a forest of trees. Eventually, Rasa found one she liked and talked to the girl working there to get one in the box brought out. Not a problem. The handheld inventory device showed plenty in the back warehouse. Monki and I ran around and went up the down slidewalk and did whatever 6-year-olds do when they’re bored and waiting until Rasa texted for us to come back. Great, we could get the tree and go home.

Except we couldn’t.

Turns out that the warehouse workers couldn’t find these vast quantities of tree inventory but the computer did show one at Mega, the mall across town, and they would call and reserve it for us. Looked like there was a Friday night trip to the mall after all. Rasa suggested she drop us off at home and she go get the thing herself. We debated for a few minutes but in the end, Monki and I heading back to the house seemed the most practical solution.

We were dropped off and Rasa headed out. With Friday night traffic it took her forever to eat across town (yes, I realize that at under 300K residents, Kaunas rush hour isn’t as bad as say Vegas or LA, but for us, it was still pretty bad. She got to the mall, went to the store and bought the piece of paper which she could then show to receive her tree. If she could find the pick-up spot. Took a couple of tries but eventually, she found the spot and the worker was nice enough to help her load the thing into the backseat of the car. Why the back seat? Because the damn thing wouldn’t actually fit in the trunk. All of a sudden, having us stay home seemed luckily prescient since the box stretched the whole of the backseat and would have ended up laying across Monki’s legs…and at 13kg (about 29 lbs) that would not have been pleasant.

I got the call as Rasa pulled up to the building that she was going to need help carrying it up the stairs, so off I went. Inside the house, the box looked even bigger. This was going to be a big tree. But by this point, we were all tired and Monki wanted to watch Home Alone (which is the Lithuanian equivalent of It’s a Wonderful Life) so the executive decision was made to wait until Saturday to put the new tree together.

Which is what happened. And everything was going along just swimmingly, with Rasa and I laughing as the thing got bigger and bigger. Seems that size is relative and what looked decent sized in the middle of a large warehouse-style hardware shop, surrounded by other trees, looked absolutely enormous in an 80sq m apartment. But the size wasn’t the problem, not directly. See, even though it was big, it wasn’t too big. It fit the room. No, the problem came as Rasa started to take our various ornaments and “toys”  out of the box. This was the point she understood that when you get a bigger tree, the surface area of that tree increases exponentially…and we just didn’t have enough lights or baubles to begin to cover it in any meaningful way.

Out she went, looking for sales and selection and once again, fighting off throngs of holiday shoppers and facing empty shelves, while Monki and I stayed home, me working and Monki watching various iterations of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, until, eventually, Rasa returned triumphant and the decorating of the tree could resume.

In the end, after all the laughter and adventure, it was 100% worth it. The tree is beautiful and holds meaning and significance. It will last us for a while, with little danger of us outgrowing it.

And it will always bring a smile to our faces, every time we put it together, and we remind ourselves of all Rasa went through to get it. 

2 thoughts on “The Coming of the Tree

  1. The tree looks beautiful!! I myself haven’t been doing a tree for several years now (or I do something weird like crocheting it, or making one out of books and such), but it’s always fun to see the examples where the chore is worth it for the emotional joy.

    Also, not sure what Monki is into, but during my childhood, we used to hang some candies on it as well, and we nommed those on the 25th, maybe that’s something fun too.

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