Christmas critters and tiny trees

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Christmas tree branches

“Nature is not to be trusted.”

— Kymberly Foster Seabolt

Come time to deck the halls, I dutifully asked Mr. Wonderful to bring our artificial trees in from the barn. Due to allergies, I cannot have a real tree — as lovely as they may be.

Since this isn’t our first storage rodeo, we had dutifully put two artificial trees first in heavy duty, super-sealed tree storage bags. They were lifted up to the highest shelf in the barn, accessible only by tractor, as an added deterrent against mice.

Yes, I know mice can climb. No, I figured they had plenty of stuff to ruin on the floor and simply wouldn’t work hard enough to go UP.

Turns out I was pretty much right. Ours is a breed of lazy, ne’er-do-well mice. Not prone to going the extra mile.

Our squirrels, however, run marathons. They work out. They have no issue working an obstacle course.

Squatter

As it turns out, we had a squirrel squatter in our largest (and newest) artificial tree. They had also managed to get hold of a roll of insulation and stuffed the pink batting throughout the branches. It was a pretty impressive layout, actually. A squirrel condo of sorts.

While some friends were of the opinion that the tree could be salvaged, I have seen the Christmas Vacation movie and know that Christmas trees and squirrels are a poor combination at best. The tree was trashed.

I can further assure you that even if the squirrels had moved out, they definitely were NOT getting a security deposit back.

When my husband told me the critters had breached defenses, I was literally saying, “please be the hateful tree!”

To be fair, this tree was maybe three years old. I fell for the hype and paid for a pre-lit tree that stayed lit for about 15 minutes after we set it up. It was a mess of lights and cords and twisted wire.

The next year, an entire section of the tree quit working and we had to string lights on the tree anyway. Wasn’t the whole point of prelit that we wouldn’t have to do that?

Our other tree — my favorite — was a $5 yard sale special we’ve had for at least 10 years. It says something about the new tree that, despite the varying age (and cost), I really wanted the new tree to be the one to take a hit. This tree had basically been high maintenance since day one of purchase. It’s entirely possible the squirrels had done me a favor.

I happily kicked it to the curb (literally) and ordered an unlit tree because string lights are cheap but my sanity is not. Finding an unlit tree was nothing short of a miracle since almost ALL the trees in store weeks before Christmas are the fancy pre-lit trees.

I was looking for a simple artificial tree like the ones we had for decades. Today, everything is pre-lit, flocked or different colors.

I could have a pink tree, a white tree, a silver or a bronze. My search for green, plain didn’t net me nearly as many results. When it comes to Christmas finery, I am definitely off trend.

I ended up ordering one based on one photo and hoped for the best. It arrived in a box the size of a suitcase and I was sure they had sent me the wrong thing. Much like an inflatable raft sprung free, it fell out of that tiny box into three sections. So this was promising.

I snapped them together lickety-split. A. B. C. I can do this! I am officially an Expert Tree Assembler! The tree stood straight up and down. Seven and a half foot tall and maybe 15 around.

Really think about that measurement. Fifteen inches around. Straight up and down. Behold the Christmas Twig!

Giggles

Girl Wonder couldn’t stop laughing long enough to help fluff it out. Boy Wonder, to his credit, tried.

For the record, fluffing did not help. This skinny little tree still stood straight up and down. Do trees even grow like that in the woods? Remember, I’m indoorsy so what goes on in the deep woods is basically a mystery to me.

Apparently, we have a pencil tree. Although it was not indicated as such, the details give it away. With the addition of some lights, ribbons and memories in the shape of ornaments, it has really grown on me — in sentiment if not in stature.

It is traditions and memories that make the season bright — even if the smaller tree does hold a few less lights — and squirrels.

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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.

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