I am sitting in my living room staring at Trevor, my Christmas tree. He has completely brightened what is usually a very dark room in our flat and looking at him with a cup of tea in my hands has become a sort of reward after being busy all day. This is the first year that I’ve felt it necessary to name my Christmas tree.
But I suppose this is because Trevor is no ordinary conglomeration of branches and pine needles. Up until a week ago, he didn’t exist at all. He was scattered over the parkland along the Crane river, soaking up the damp ground and looking up at the sky.
The whole idea of Trevor was born out of a mixture of guilt and whimsy. Christmas trees, after all, are not cheap. I have a lot of ornaments and insist on a large tree where my baubles will be happy and comfortable. This means an expenditure of between £35 and £50, perhaps a justifiable yuletide extravagance if there wasn’t also a tiny bit of guilt. Here I am toting my groceries home in the panniers on my bike, turning off the lights in my flat to conserve energy, taking train or bus journeys instead of driving a car… and I am first in line to buy a live tree that’s probably been transported from somewhere in Europe so I can enjoy it for a month in my living room, then throw it away. I know worse crimes have been committed but these are the sorts of thoughts that keep me up at night. In the end, Trevor was a very good excuse to do something completely over the top. We decided to create a tree of our own and see if it could still hold all the weight of my Christmas expectations.
On a bright Sunday morning, Dave and I set out on a walk in search of good sticks. We found ourselves acting like petulant shoppers in a department store. Standing at the side of the path I wrinkled my nose. That stick looks shabby, I said, and the moss is going to fall off and stain the carpet. Dave had more practical concerns, pointing out the evidence of wood worm, rejecting any specimens that felt too damp, beginning to devise a way of turning all these sticks into a fully fledged tree. It wasn’t long before we each had a decent bundle in our arms, and we began walking home, giggling every time we passed someone on the street. One man thought we were gathering fire wood, but most people looked at us with suspicion, as if we might drop to the ground at any second and begin constructing a tepee for their garden gnomes.
Ella, our Bearded Collie, was very pleased when we returned that day. She chose one stick for her own and began stripping off the bark. The rest of the sticks lay propped up in the corner until we could be bothered to do the more arduous task of putting them together.
Dave’s first attempts were not successful. He chose a tall stick to serve as the trunk and attempted to attach some branches with a coil of wire. My role was to criticize his efforts. That will never hold my ornaments, I told him. The wire looks a bit tacky… And yet he persisted.
It was while our friend Andy was visiting that I came up with the idea of hammering the tree together with nails. Balancing the central trunk on two dining chairs, I gripped it with my hands and closed my eyes so I wouldn’t wince every time the hammer came dangerously near to my fingers. Every Christmas season should be filled with this sort of festive fear.
Finally, after two evenings of hammering, Trevor was born. He looked a bit like the front of a combine harvester and for a while we wondered if Harvey wouldn’t be a better name.
Since Dave had done the hard work of constructing the tree, I took on the task of decoration, wrapping Trevor with two full sets of lights (more guilt!), and attaching some bright red bows.
Dave put on my favourite Johnny Mathis Christmas cd and we began hanging the ornaments… Before we went to bed, we turned off all the lights in the living room so we could enjoy the full glory of our creation.
What a tree! True, Trevor may be just a bundle of sticks with some lights, but he has a magic about him because of what we went through to bring him to life. In the process of making my own Christmas tree I laughed so hard I nearly cried, spent some quality time with my husband, and proved that the madness of imagination is capable of creating joy.
Next year Dave is threatening to build a tree of bicycle tires. I think we should weld together old forks and spoons and knives. I’ll keep you posted.