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Smelly tree, smelly tree, it’s not your fault

I’ve often complained about our 2007 Christmas Tree. It smelled like teenaged badgers held a little but raucous kegger in the branches. I couldn’t wait to get rid of it—in fact, it was completely stripped of ornaments by the morning of December 26th. No regrets. I guess it’s the hazard of being in love with live trees. Fish function in water, as W.C. Fields noted. Animals do it in trees.

But our first Christmas tree still wins the war of the smelly trees.

Ironically, it was artificial. More important than it’s factory birth is that it was second-hand. An elderly woman who worked at the college library with my husband during his work-study days thought we might like to have her old Christmas stuff. We were very broke and working our first post-college jobs. I was pregnant with Aidan. We welcomed the large battered box she turned over to him.

The tree didn’t come with directions, so we puzzled over putting together the dark green, tattered branches. At full height, it was around 5 feet tall. It looked like an overgrown and frayed plastic pipe cleaner. We used the ornaments she gave to us as well. Each had seen more glorious and proud days. Two strings of little colored bulbs snaked around and around. With the room lights off, it was beautiful if you squinted your eyes and were drunk on newlywed love and Christmas wonder. We cuddled on the couch admiring our first Christmas tree. Then Pregnantnose kicked in.

What is that smell?

It took about 2 seconds to discern it was the tree. The heat from the room and the act of unfurling the branches released the scent of a 3-pack-a-day smoker’s breath.

My husband remembered his old co-worker was a heavy smoker. As a recent ex-smoker, I was somewhat sympathetic regarding her habit. But between hormones and overblown expectations of Our First Christmas as a Married Couple, I wasn’t thrilled to be sharing our 1950’s-era miniscule apartment with a deep-green cousin to the rampaging tobacco monster, no matter how charming the twinkly lights looked in the dark.

We hoped the odor would dissipate after a few days. I don’t know if it truly did or if we just got used to our new roommate, but it became less of an issue.

Each of our moms gave commemorative and personalized first Christmas ornaments to us. When we hung them, we took full ownership.

This is Lee and Gretchen’s Tree.


Our Christmas was far from dismal. We were expecting our first baby, we had supportive and loving families, jobs, two old but working cars, and each other.

We also had the Q-tip the Jolly Green Giant used to clean out his enormous ears.

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