I Paid $300 for Fake Bark

I sat down to write a Christmas-themed post and happened to notice that the time is exactly 12:25. Coincidence?

I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

So here we are, a mere five days before the big holiday, a fact that is difficult to swallow. On the one hand, it doesn’t feel as Christmasy as usual this year; thanks to my surgery and hospital stay, I was unable to string up holiday lights outdoors. I didn’t think it wise to crawl on my belly and dangle off the garage roof while trying to staple lights to the eaves. That wouldn’t have been good for my incisions or my psyche, knowing that one miscue could send me right back to Ye Olde County General. Since I didn’t put up outdoor lights, I also chose to skip the indoor lights I normally hang from the banister, but I attribute that more to laziness than a fear of falling. And then there’s the tree. I’ve been buying a freshly-cut Douglas Fir for the past couple of years, having grown tired of the fake plastic tree. Back when I was married, I used to pester the ex for an artificial tree. I always thought it would be more convenient and save us money in the long run, but she was a traditionalist and would have none of that. So naturally, the very month we divorced back in 2006, I ran out and bought myself an artificial tree. Not just any artificial tree, mind you; I bought the best I could find, a top-of-the-line 8′ pre-lit fir that was so detailed it even had fake bark decorating the center poles. And, err, it was sort of pricey. Like, $300 pricey.

Gulp.

The ultimate #%$@ gesture. 'Tis the season!

What can I say? I was freshly single and it was the ultimate F-you gesture (so perfect for this magical time of year). I told myself I was reclaiming my independence, starting fresh, and by god if I wanted an expensive fake tree, then I was going to have an expensive fake tree and there was no nagging wife to stop me. Plus, I reasoned that I spent about $25 on a real tree every year, so in a mere dozen years this artificial baby would pay for itself. Ha! I really showed her!

I loved that tree the first year. Did I miss the scent of fresh pine? Sure, but that’s why they sell evergreen-scented candles, right? So that second marriage-free Christmas I bought a couple of those candles. The problem was, they didn’t really smell like a Christmas tree. Neither did the plug-in Glade dispenser. By year three I was sort of cursing the tree, which was difficult to store because it was so damn big and bulky. Plus, as convenient as having built-in lights was, those lights happened to be clear, and I have always preferred colored lights. Especially ones that flash and strobe and chase and fade in and out. Turns out I like my Christmas to resemble a discotheque. So, by year four I swallowed my pride and bought a real tree again from the corner lot. Last year (year five, if you’re counting) I not only bought a real tree once more, but I finally managed to get rid of the fake tree – which had been taking up residence in Audrey’s bedroom closet during the 11-month offseason – by surprising my parents while they were away on a cruise. The kids and I hauled the tree over to their house and decorated it for them, since they were halfway around the world and weren’t returning until a few days before Christmas. I thought it was a really sweet gesture, though I will admit when it came time to take down the tree I found myself conveniently busy and insisted they hang onto it since it was so much more impressive than the tiny artificial tree they usually put up, one which – I must point out – did not contain so much as an ounce of fake bark…just a green metal pole. Bor-ing. Clearly, I was doing them a favor, upgrading their future holidays with a much more realistic looking phony tree. Plus, Audrey had closet space again. We high-fived each other on the drive home, all the while remarking “free at last!”

And then, a funny thing happened. A few days after putting the real tree up, it fell over, flooding the carpet with water and an inch-deep layer of pine needles. How this happened exactly is a mystery, though I blame my cat Sydney, who had demonstrated a fondness not only for batting balls off the lowest branches, but also took a liking to the water in the stand, which she lapped up eagerly whenever she got the chance, completely ignoring my cries of “gross!” and “eww!”

Hmm. Two problems I never had with a fake tree…

My, that's some realistic looking fake bark.

So this year, because I’m an indecisive bastard, I was sort of looking for an excuse to reclaim that pricey fake tree that I had once loved, then despised, and now missed. I couldn’t very well take it back from my parents, though; that would make me an Indian Giver. Luckily, Fate had my back and dished up the perfect solution. Granted, I wish it hadn’t involved my gall bladder, but whatever works, works. Upon my return from the hospital, I pulled the ol’ surgery card and asked my mom if she would mind if I took the tree back since I was in no position to wrestle a big, heavy real tree into my home this year so soon after a major operation. Plus, there was the fact that I am flying to Nevada on Christmas Day, and leaving a real tree up for nine days after the holiday wouldn’t be prudent. She agreed, and long story short (ha – too late for that!), my pricey fake tree is back this year, standing proudly in the corner.

Naturally, I miss the smell of pine…

Anyway. Whatever. It’s worth the convenience! And in another eight Christmases, it will have paid for itself.

And while I said this year feels less Christmasy than normal, on the other hand, it’s also managing to feel more Christmasy than ever. I feel absolutely inundated with spirit because, for the first time in many years, I will be spending the holidays with a woman who is very special to me, and who I love unconditionally. I may be slightly apprehensive over the idea of flying, but hell, if Santa can get from Point A to Point B relying on nothing more than a team of lighter-than-air venison, I figure a 747 will be a piece of cake. Exchanging gifts next to her fake pre-lit tree as soon as we return to Ely is going to be wonderful. So, while the house may be a little less festive looking this year, it’s a different story inside my heart.

That’s what matters most. Just ask the Grinch.

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25 thoughts on “I Paid $300 for Fake Bark

  1. I’ve always loved a live tree. And I still do, a day after mopping up water and sweeping up glass in the middle of the night after the loud crash. Yup, it fell—the first time in 19 years. I have to admit to a “wtf was I thinking” moment as we got it back in the stand that features four little screws to hold a seven-foot tree upright and balanced. From now on, we’ll tie it to something. Ho, ho, ho. Enjoy the holidays.

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  2. Sara and I are just glad to be back in cool climate for the holiday. Yes, we were home for a few days last year, but not long enough to put up any kind of tree. I’m just disappointed it looks like we’re not going to get snow. Sara’s not, but I am.

    Sorry forgot to mention we have a real tree–always have since we’ve been together. We even has a little live tree in Vietnam. Merry Christmas, to you and Tara–and the kids.

    Kathy

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    1. The one thing I have been hoping for is to see some snow during my trip to Ely. Just my luck that this is turning out to be an unusually dry winter for them. Still, I’ll be down there for nine whole days, so there’s still a chance it could happen. Probably just in time for our big New Years Eve celebration!

      Merry Christmas to you and Sara, too!

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  3. So, check this out.

    All the while that Eric was gone, we really didn’t do anything. No decorations, no tree, just an exchanging of a few small gifts and one big ‘together’ gift.

    His first Christmas home, I splurged on a pre-lit Christmas tree. Mine was only $49.00 but that’s beside the point. The lights on it are multi-colored, except for the middle section, which are white. So, out of all the boxes that I could have picked, I picked the odd one out. What’s even better, is someone out there has multi-colored lights in the middle of their supposed to be all white lights tree.

    Therefore, I LOVE my artificial tree…it’s unique…like me!!

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    1. Ahh, “Stand By Me.” Or technically, “The Body.” That’s a great story, Tracy (and an even greater price, but you’re right, that’s beside the point). Someday I’m going to have to check out this unique fake tree of yours!

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  4. Great post, Mark!

    LOVED the ending!

    As I was reading your story about the tree, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a time in my childhood when my parents (actually, my father) decided to change from a REAL Christmas tree to a fake one. However, he didn’t get a fake ‘pine’ tree, but rather one of those SILVER branched trees – ugh! We decorated it with red balls and had one of those floor lights that rotated in color; changing the silver tree from red, to blue, to orange, to yellow. It was HIDEOUS, because the tree looked like something you’d see in the disco club of Studio 54!

    And the funny thing about it was that my mother was so bummed we didn’t have a REAL tree, that she bought a can of fake pine scent and would spray the silver tree everyday so that it smelled like a REAL tree – HA!

    Wishing you and Tara a faaaaaaaaaaabulous Merry Christmas!

    Have a great trip, buddy!

    Talk to ya soon!

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  5. I can’t believe you’re proactive enough to have a tree at all! For me? So far this year? Not a Christmas decoration in sight. You’ve inspired me to dig the little, pre-lit tree from the garage into the house and get creative. (I agree the standard-equipment white lights are boring, btw.)

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    1. I think my proactiveness (not a word but it should be) has a lot to do with the fact that I’ve been stuck in the house for days on end, going on several weeks now, and if I’m not productive I may just die from the sheer boredom of not doing anything.

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  6. Did you really spend that much on a tree batman? Holy Toledo! I am very happy with my fresh thirty dollar tree! There is always the thrill of picking it out, figuring out how we will bring it home, and then fitting it into the tree stand. It is one of my favorite things!

    I wish you the best over the holidays!

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    1. Yes, I really spent $300 on a fake tree. A very nice fake tree, but still…three hundred bucks. Ouch.

      I’ve changed a lot in the last five years, though. I’m much too cheap nowadays to ever indulge like that again.

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  7. I enjoyed this post, especially the comment about preferring your trees to look like a discotheque. I’m also thinking it was a good call not to pull a Clark Grizwold and dangle off of the garage hanging Christmas lights, who knows maybe even your neighbors appreciate it this year :-P. It’s amazing how much one person can show you what you’ve been missing for so long. I hope you guys have a very Merry Christmas and I’m sure your flight will go fine…normally I’d say just concentrate on the hot pilots since that works for me but probably not so much for you…ho ho ho!!

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  8. “My, that’s some realistic looking fake bark.”
    LOL :)
    I always had fake trees. growing up The first time I had a real tree, when I moved out on my own, some crazy ass bugs came out of it and I dreamed about them laying eggs in my ears. It’s been fake trees ever since.

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  9. “Turns out I like my Christmas to resemble a discotheque.”

    I think this might be my favorite thing you’ve ever written. But then, I just got your book, so we’ll see. I think you and I would awesome roommates cause I too love gaudy trees with color lights and homemade decorations. Glad you got your tree back though, a fake tree is better than no tree at all.

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