The kids dragged the Christmas tree out of the crawl space and were assembling it, being allowed to do so for the first time this year.
The tree looked like the love child of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree and some very shady green pipe cleaners. It had bald patches and some of the branches sagged. I'm not sure how they were broken while in a box in the crawl space for 11 months out of the year.
The Long Suffering Husband looked at it. "We could get a new tree," he mused.
"We could get a new tree!?" I pointed at the Pipe Cleaner Nightmare Before Christmas. "That is our tree! That right there! It might be ugly, but it has seen us through many Christmases! Many 'best-presents-ever' have been found under that tree! It was the Little Professor's first Christmas tree! It has survived no less than three different angels - "
"If a tree-top angel doesn't work anymore, doesn't that mean it's a fallen angel?"
"None of your sass, mister! This is our tree! It's in all our Christmas photos!"
"We could get a nine-foot tall one, the kind with the lights built in. Those tree have an awful lot of lights."
"Oh. Well, in that case ... "
"You said we didn't need a new tree, that this one had too many memories."
"But the lights ... "
"We don't need a new tree. You said so."
"Don't worry, Momma," my Sassy Saint said. "We will put lots of lights on it, and it will be beautiful."
If possible, the tree may have sagged even more under the weight of her expectations. It was pathetic. It would take a major miracle to approach acceptable, let alone beautiful.
We wound the lights around the tree, with the usual squabble over how many strings of lights to use muted by my regret that we weren't going to buy a high-wattage monstrosity. If I had my way, you could bring airplanes in for a landing using our tree. The LSH always worries about burning the house down because he's a grinchy pragmatist.
I once had ornaments that matched - had a theme, even! - but no more. In that dim, misty past before children, I bought glass bulbs, and only a few stalwart soldiers remain. Literally 80 percent of my ornaments are made out of construction paper, felt and macaroni; were gifts to the children; or previously appeared on my parents' tree before my mother decided I needed them.
I like to buy the children collectible ornaments so I can someday send them out into the world with their very own box of mismatched ornaments, which is why Jack Skellington, Alice and the Bumble hang out on adjacent branches. I need to get a Maleficent one. If anyone finds one, let me know. For the kids, of course.
A quart of eggnog and two dozen cookies later, the tree was finally finished and we plugged in the Christmas lights and turned off the overhead light. In the near-dark, if you cocked your head and squinted, the tree didn't look too bad. In fact, it looked pretty good.
The LSH draped an arm around my shoulders as we admired the tree.
"I never thought it was such a bad little tree," I told him. "It's not bad at all, really. It just needed a little love."
(Wallace-Minger, a resident of Weirton, is the community editor of the The Weirton Daily Times.)