She’s taller than most. You might call her pear-shaped- there’s definitely quite a bit of junk in her trunk. She drinks a shocking amount- almost a gallon a day! From the get go, she’s made things… well, difficult. But our holiday season wouldn’t be complete without her.
No, I’m not talking about a crazy aunt or weird neighbor. I’m talking about Big Bertha, our eleven-foot Christmas tree.
We have extraordinarily high ceilings in our great room that beg for a tall tree. Last year, we found Norman– on the slim side, but with plenty of shelf-like branches for sparkling ornaments. Bertha’s a different species of tree, and while she’s maybe a tad shorter than Norman, she’s got to weigh twice as much. This is a fact that we didn’t realize until we tried to get her off of the top of the truck, where two strong tree lot men had secured her for us.
Our nighttime wandering around Park City Nursery’s Christmas tree selection was certainly cut short by the below zero temperatures. A pause by the crackling fire did little to warm my numb fingers, so we got down to business and looked for the perfect tree. I love the tree lot- the smell of evergreen, the sounds of giggling children and rustling pine boughs, warm holiday lights draped everywhere, the happy glow of tradition on every face. It didn’t take long to find The One; Bertha was waiting for us in a beam of light at the end of a row of big trees. Sure, her backside was a little spotty and bare, but just like the ugly pumpkins, her flaw made me love her more. We quickly picked up a fresh wreath, paid a significant amount of money to the laughing ladies behind the counter, and headed home with our tree.
How I wish someone had secretly been video-taping us during the next hour. Getting Bertha off of the truck was touch-and-go, a strategic procedure that involved good balance, a belief that gravity would assist us properly, and prayer. Every bough was weighed down by snow, frozen solid onto the branches. Once Bertha was on the ground, we faced the task of carrying her up the steps to the front door, getting her inside, maneuvering the behemoth through some indoor twists and turns, and finally up a full flight of stairs, just to get her into the correct area. The problem was that I could hardly lift my half of Bertha. Was her trunk made of LEAD?
Somehow, with a burst of adrenaline fueled by my desire to get out of the frigid temperatures and into my warm, fire-lit house, we hoisted Bertha up the front walk, through the front door (barely), and up twelve slippery steps into the living room. She lay there on the wood floor for a bit while John and I sipped stiff drinks, felt our bodies un-thaw, and contemplated how to safely get Bertha from horizontal to a vertical position.
One the count of three, John put his back into it and got that tree upright. My only job was to guide Bertha’s thick trunk into the tree stand. Too thick, it turned out. Back down she went while we marveled at the fact that we had brought home a Christmas tree that was too big to fit into the stand. Always resourceful, John fetched his skill saw and trimmed bits and pieces off of the trunk (which Cholula stole away gleefully). Our second try was successful- after getting stuck for a few moments, Bertha’s trunk slid through the metal circle and she landed in the stand with a heavy THUNK.
Our last worry was whether or not the tree stand could even hold our piney monster, which, incidentally, was simultaneously shedding needles like a dog in springtime and dripping constant freezing raindrops of melting ice onto us, the dog, and the floor. I’m sure John wished for a raincoat while I used both hands and all of my weight to hold Bertha steady so he could tighten the screws in the stand. I almost didn’t want to let go, picturing the tree falling over and crushing my couch or dog or husband. But my numb-again hands loosened and, miraculously, Bertha stayed put.
And now she will live in our great room forever because I don’t want to go through that process again (in reverse).
The holiday music we were playing combined with the pitter-patter of our indoor one-tree rainforest was quite calming. John and I both knew that we’d tackle the decorating another evening. After placing piles of towels underneath Bertha to absorb her glacial thaw and sweeping up enough needles to create a second tree, we settled in on the couch in front of the fire, clinked our wine glasses, and laughed at the ridiculousness of our evening. It was then that we named her Big Bertha. Another holiday together, another hilarious memory made: “Remember that freezing year when the tree almost didn’t fit through the front door…?” I wouldn’t have it any other way.
In the morning, Bertha was parched. She’d had shed her ice coat and made herself right at home. She fits perfectly into the corner of the great room. She’s sparkly and adorned with lights now, and that was no easy feat…
But that’s another story for another day.
Coming soon: Festive decorating, Nog Night, and holiday party prep!
**One year ago: A happy batch of Bliss Bits.