Plumb Line

Santa’s in for a tree surprise

December 20, 2013 

Dear Santa,

Forgive me for bothering you at your busiest time of the year, but I wanted to alert you to a recent development at the Plumbs’. It’s not that I haven’t been a good boy this year – well, no worse than usual – but there’s been a big change here. I know you don’t like surprises.

I remember the year we put a screen over the chimney to keep out the chimney swifts. (They made such a mess and freaked out the reindeer with their incessant chattering.) We should have warned you so you could have brought a pair of pliers. I still feel bad about that.

This time your entry won’t be impeded, I promise.

I debated not mentioning this, figuring you might not notice, but I’ve learned over the years that you seldom miss a trick.

For example, no matter how often we’ve moved, you always find us on Christmas Day. One year you even found me when I was stationed with the U.S. Army in Vietnam. (I think your elves call it Ho! Ho! Ho! Chi Minh City these days.) That was quite a feat.

Santa, there’s no way to sugarcoat it: This year our tree didn’t come from the North Carolina mountains or even from a York County Christmas tree farm. It was made in a factory somewhere in a far-away country.

Yes, Santa, this year our tree is – I can hardly bring myself to utter the word – ARTIFICIAL!

Before you start filling a box of coal for me, let me explain:

As you know, our living room has 11-foot ceilings, and the little woman insists on a 10-foot tree. I don’t know what it is about Christmas trees, Santa, but they have been getting heavier every year. The last few years I haven’t been able to put the tree up myself, which meant I had to rely on the kindness of a neighbor or hire a handyman to help.

That was bad enough, but the tree never wanted to stay upright. On more than one occasion, it did a nosedive onto the coffee table, scattering decorations everywhere. Fortunately, few broke. Nonetheless, it was discouraging to have to decorate the darn tree again.

In other years the tree managed to defy gravity and stay upright, but only after I anchored it to the wall with copious amounts of heavy-duty fishing line.

Besides having my sleep interrupted by sounds in the night that might have come from a toppling Christmas tree, I had to keep it well-watered. Twice a day, morning and night, I’d get down on my knees – another activity that gets more challenging with each passing year – push aside gifts and fill the tree stand reservoir. Half the time, I’d miss my target and have to get up and find a rag to soak up the spill, which meant another test of creaky knees.

Despite all that, for years I resisted buying a fake tree, telling myself they just didn’t look like the real thing. In recent years, however, I had to admit the makers of faux Christmas trees were getting better at their craft.

It has become increasingly more difficult to tell the difference, especially when the tree is laden with garland, lights and ornaments. Heck, we hang so much junk on our tree that it’s hard to tell what it’s made of.

To be honest, Santa, I thought about not mentioning the fake tree. I know your eyesight isn’t great. (Otherwise, you wouldn’t need Rudolph to guide your sleigh, would you?) But I realized your nose would betray my secret.

Even with the pine-scented candles, which my wife likes to spread around the house, there’s no substitute for the smell of a freshly cut Christmas tree.

There you have it, Santa. I hope you appreciate my dilemma.

One more thing: There will be a newcomer at our house this Christmas – our 2-month-old grandson.

But you knew that already, didn’t you?

Merry Christmas.

Email former Herald Editor Terry Plumb at

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