About this time of year, we have the great Christmas tree debate at our house: To tree or not to tree? That is the question.
My wife and I don't know if we should bother putting up a Christmas tree because our kids are grown and gone (although one may still be living in the attic; we hear strange thumps late at night, and food is sometimes missing from the refrigerator.)
Getting a tree is a hassle. It's expensive, it's messy and it can be dangerous.
First, the hassle: We've always bought our tree at Jolly Santa's Christmas Village, where Santa seems to become less jolly year after year. When we first visited years ago, he greeted us with a merry ho-ho-ho. Now he barely mutters a single ho, and it sounds forced and unenthusiastic.
Santa complains that federally-mandated self insurance is costing him an arm and leg, and Mrs. Santa has been nagging him to sell out and move to Palm Beach.
You have to keep an eye on the old geezer. Last year, he sold us a Balsam fir that was as bare as Miley Cyrus on one side, and leaned further to the right than Rush Limbaugh.
When we got it home we had to turn the bare side to the wall and wedge a copy of “Killing Lincoln'” under the stand to prop it up-right. It was a bit of a holiday bummer to be reminded of Abe's untimely demise every time we looked at our Christmas tree.
And the tree was expensive. I remember back when you could have bought the forest for what one tree costs today.
Of course, back then we didn't buy a Christmas tree. We went out in the woods and chopped one down. If you try that now, some park ranger will get his knickers in a wad.
For those who yearn for the nostalgia of cutting their own tree, there are Christmas tree farms that give you a saw and invite you to have at it.
In that same spirit of independence, on the way home you can stop at a farm and slaughter your own pig. It's not as much fun as it sounds.
Once you take out a second mortgage, buy a tree and haul it, then comes the mess: Christmas trees are genetically programmed to shed their needles as soon as they are brought indoors. It's a defense mechanism, along with the sticky sap they start to ooze. It's nature's way of saying, “Don't cut this tree down and drag it indoors!”
Our Christmas tree stand has a bowl in which water is poured to keep it fresh. The problem is, Buddy the Lab drinks it. For some reason he prefers gummy Christmas tree water over the water in the toilet bowl, where he normally drinks.
While imbibing from the tree bowl, Buddy invariably gets sap on his paws and tramps it all over the carpet. And it won't come off.
We have Christmas tree sap stains on the carpet dating back to the Carter Administration. Perhaps one sap deserves another.
Worst of all, Christmas trees can be dangerous. Before you haul a dry, sap-oozing, highly-combustible conifer into your home and hang hot bulbs with frayed wiring on it, make sure your homeowners insurance is paid up.
And by all means, keep Uncle Al and his smoldering stogies on the other side of the Christmas tree barricade.
Frankly, when you consider all the downsides, I'm puzzled why we do it year after year.
But then the colored lights flicker on and the tinsel and ornaments sparkle like ice. The warm holiday fragrance of evergreen fills the room.
And suddenly, it all seems worth it.
Pajama-clad little feet no longer scamper excitedly through the house on Christmas morn, but a Christmas tree brings back memories of when they did. So, as usual, we'll give in and get one.
Tree-time comes only once a year. Surely, we can survive it.