Tree Tale

Manning up for an annual holiday ritual

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  • Written by
    Susan McMartin


It’s that time of year again. The time when my strength, humor, ego and determination are put to the ultimate test. That’s right, I’m talking about single mom versus the mighty Christmas tree.

I was raised with the belief that anything smaller than an 8-foot tree was considered a plant.  I continued the tradition, and now my daughter is as snobby as I am. I didn’t know I would be divorced and doing the Christmas tree circuit alone all these years. If I had, I might’ve decided to honor my Jewish side and gone for a low-maintenance Hanukkah bush.

The adventure begins at the super cheap tree lot. Great trees, but there is a catch for being price-conscious: They won’t put the stand on the tree for you, carry it to your car or tie it on top. No matter how much flirting, winking and flashing I have done, these guys are dead serious about bare-bones service.

Kick in the holiday music! Get out the egg nog and begin what is usually a good five hours of tree stand hell!

Typically my child and I spend a good hour picking our tree. We examine the size, the shape, the health of the needles, the personality and the overall cheerfulness.

Once we make our choice, we get that sucker sacked. That’s when the man with the heavy gloves, scarf and hat drops it at my feet almost as if to say, “There ya go, lady. She’s all yours.”

And so it begins. With my girl skipping behind, I drag the green beast to the car looking like something out of a Nora Ephron movie, only I’m not dressed nearly as cute as Meg Ryan, my kid isn’t Tom Hanks and there is no great Harry Connick, Jr. music playing in the background.

Getting the tree on the roof of my car is a magic act. It requires me standing on the wheels, pulling, scratching the roof, pulling, yanking, begging (and, yes, there is some cursing). Viola! Tree on roof!

At this point I’m exhausted, sweating and wondering why I’m never dating a guy around the holidays. You would think I would plan my romantic life a little better.

Why am I usually dating in the spring when no holiday that requires heavy lifting is happening?

Home we go … at exactly 3 mph with my hazard lights on. Usually this is when my kid has to go to the bathroom. About four days later we make it home.

Kick in the holiday music! Get out the egg nog and begin what is usually a good five hours of tree stand hell! Screw it one way, the tree is lopsided. Screw it another way, only two of the three screws meet the trunk. Finally, it stands—briefly. Every year our trees fall over again and again, causing my daughter to laugh, the dog to bark and the cat to race around in complete terror.

My favorite part is dealing with the ornaments. Over my lifetime and my daughter’s we have collected incredible ornaments. Handmade ornaments from people who have passed on, from other countries, from my mother’s childhood, and the first ornament I made for my daughter when she was born: a hand-sewn heart.

Only one item left. The star. As I slip on my highest pumps for extra height, climb on a chair to reach to the top, I manage to land that beautiful star safely in its place.

“Mommy, I knew you could do it!”

She is my greatest cheerleader. We high-five each other as once again I prove you don’t need a man to get a Christmas tree. But as she falls asleep, I think, “Next year I’m totally getting a boyfriend.”



Susan McMartin is a writer/producer on the CBS comedy Mom. She also pens the blog Studio City Mom at