Frankentree or Coat of Many Colors

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It was a lot harder to take down than it was to put up: one action physically taxing, the other, emotionally. It was midnight, and I was alone. It was a tough decision finally made after too much wine. To see the lights go out, all the needles falling at my feet, to see it in its decrepit and withered state, past death, just a dried up reminder of a sparkling vision. I hope you can understand my pain. It didn’t even make it until the week of Christmas. The cost of a metal tree stand: $1 at the second-hand store. But I just had to have one homemade, of wood, far from seaworthy.

When it was going up, well, by the end it had taken days. But it was crafted with more love than any tree I’ve ever decorated. It was the first tree of our first home. That’s right, at 41, I consider this house my first home. I have owned other houses before, and my family house growing up was certainly a lovely home, but it was not mine, and those others were investments, not real homes. This one is it, the simple country fixer-upper that cost about $25,000 once you subtract the land price.

Like the house, the tree was also a fixer-upper. “Frankentree” hubby dubbed it instantly when he learned the process he would need to help with: drilling little holes in the side of the trunk so we could fill in the gaps with additional branches to make it look fuller. The tree came from our yard, a small cedar, not exactly the full-figured, richly green variety specially grown as Christmas trees. Nothing new was purchased for this tree. The pièce de résistance: popcorn and cranberries painstakingly strung together by me, the woman who hates sewing more than any other activity and gets an insta-migraine simply from threading a needle.

Frankentree it was, but I keep thinking of the old Dolly Parton song, “Coat of Many Colors.” That song makes me cry. Maybe you remember it? It’s about a poor girl who is teased at school for her handmade coat, but she doesn’t care, because she saw all the love that went into making it from the throwaway scraps they’d been given. That’s how I felt about that tree. Dolly’s song will live forever, but alas, the tree is already gone: the homemade stand didn’t allow for water, which I knew would be a problem, but I just had to try it anyway.

A tree that doesn’t last until Christmas, well, under any circumstances at all, I guess I cannot call that a success. But was it really a failure? I lost a lot of hours on that tree. But did I really lose them? For me, the measure of success for my time or labor is always weighed in the experience, and the experience of creating that tree in this home was the most memorable of my life. It’s sad to see it come down prematurely, but next year I doubt I will try to replicate it in any way. And that brings another song to mind, one that defines my life as much as The Coat of Many Colors defines Frankentree. It’s by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, “I’d rather regret something I did, than something I didn’t do.”

Goodbye Frankentree, you’ve shed your last mess on this floor. But, you did teach me something very valuable: I will never try a homemade stand or string popcorn and cranberries again for the rest of my life. Frankentree will remain unique forever.