Letters From The Editor: Home still looks like Christmas

I need to come clean.

I bought a fake Christmas tree.

I know that some consider that a decorative sin. It just isn't done.

But I did it anyway.

I'll explain why in a bit, but first some context. My wife and I have never put up a fake tree. Our parents never did and, it's safe to say, never will.

In my childhood home, the idea of installing a fake tree was akin to blowing off Mass. To my parents, and many in their generation, if a real tree wasn't overpowering the living room it wasn't Christmastime.

So it was with a bit of guilt that I asked my wife, who has far better taste than I, if she was OK with an artificial tree.

I expected that look, the one that reminds me that I ask stupid questions that don't dignify answers.

But instead of a look of surprise, I got one of relief.

"I was thinking the same thing," she said, adding that she had heard they were better for the environment.

It turns out we had both tired of going to the lot, picking out a too-expensive tree, waiting in line for that guy with the saw, carrying the thing out to the car and, despite our best efforts, scratching up the clear coat.

Then there were the messy needles, the fire worries and the idea of spending money every year on something we planned to throw away (OK, recycle).

And, we used to think, all of those hassles were worth it because real trees make the house smell like Christmas.

So it was with some trepidation that I drove to the Target on Harbor Boulevard in Costa Mesa to check out their selection of fake trees.

They all looked pretty good, some at the upper end appearing downright real.

I settled on a 7-foot Douglas fir knockoff. After I calculated that it would pay for itself in two years, I was sold.

I called my wife just to make sure she was still OK with going this route.

She was. Just get it, she said.

There was no need to tie the tree to the roof of the car. I just folded down the rear seats, slid in the box and drove home.

Waiting for me at the door was my 4-year-old daughter, who ran to the driveway, excited to see my haul.

A neighbor was outside and my kid, who likes to share, told her that we got a tree.

"Oh, you did," said our neighbor.

"Yeah, but it's a fake one," said my daughter.

"Oh," the neighbor said, clearly disappointed.

My neighborhood takes decorating for the holidays rather seriously.

"We used to get real ones," my daughter said.

"And that's how it should be," said my neighbor.

My neighbor is of my parents' generation, so I didn't take offense.

Like a piece of IKEA furniture, only simpler, we built the tree and, after bending some branches, found it pretty convincing, particularly when decorated.

It's been up for a few days now, and I really can't tell the difference. It may not smell like Christmas in my house, but it sure looks like it.

John Canalis is the editor for Times Community News in Orange County. He can be reached at john.canalis@latimes.com or 714-966-4607.

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