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Christmas is complicated. As a child, it was really simple; all you had to worry about was conveying your list of presents to Santa and/or parents. Dad's job was to retrieve the boxes of decorations from the garage and set up the tree. Mom did most of the decorating, gift wrapping and cooking. Being a mom is hard work.

Live trees were a must for our family. Artificial trees were ridiculously nonlifelike back then! For some reason the silver aluminum tree was a favorite in the '60s. Many would place a red, blue and gold revolving light next to the tree which reflected off the shiny tinsel. Nope, we had to have live, piney-smelling Christmas trees.

Dad always had trouble keeping the tree alive through Christmas Day. This resulted in some tension in the household. It was everyone's job to keep the tree stand filled with water, so the needles would stay on the tree. Get the tree too soon and you had a fire hazard in the living room days before Christmas. The worst thing was when Dad had to go buy a second tree because the first one dried to a brown husk. All the decorations had to be removed and repositioned on the new tree. It was kind of sad having to prematurely toss a Christmas tree into the trash; and exclaiming over a "new" second tree just seemed like betrayal.

Now, things are different and more complicated, naturally. My son is allergic to pine trees. We found this out when he was a toddler. Every time he crawled under the tree, he would break out, sniffle and blow snot balls onto the decorations. So, we have gone with artificial trees for the past 30 years.

The first trees we got were fairly simple and did the job. As years went on, we found companies that produced quite sophisticated trees. They were very realistic! And expensive! We rationalized that the more expensive ones would last longer.

The current tree is going on its sixth year. It has five sections and 2,200 permanent lights attached to 7,000 branch tips and is over 10 feet tall. During the off-season, we store it in two large bags that then weigh about 60 pounds. The lower sections are the heaviest. Each succeeding section fits into the lower section and makes an electrical connection for the pre-lit lights. It takes a ladder and two people to put it together. We then must "fluff" the tree's branches because it has been crammed into a plastic bag for 11 months. It takes a while to fluff out 7,000 branch tips. The lights are clear and multicolor, controlled by a remote, which, of course, gets lost many times.

All went well for the first years. A few lights would not work for some reason, but with so many it was barely noticeable. But each year, more would not light. In the old days, you simply replaced one of the, at most, 30 bulbs on a tree. Or, one could just buy a new set of lights. Not with this tree! This year, whole sections of lights were dark. There are about 25 plugs each with their own set of fuses. I tested them all. Testing each of 2,200 lights is not practical because of the time involved. But of course I randomly test a few just to see if I get lucky. I don't.

I spent three hours trying to troubleshoot the problem. Calls to customer service were of no help: "Did you test the fuses?" "Yes, of course, I tested the fuses!"

"Did you find the main light bulb that controls each section of lights?" "No, because all the light sockets look the same!" I yelled into the phone. Evidently, a degree in electrical engineering is required to service the tree.

I disassembled the tree and put it back in the garage. We are now searching for another artificial tree. I am sure they've made great strides in Christmas tree technology since our last purchase. Maybe there is a "robot" tree that can set itself up automatically, repair the lights and smell like a real live pine tree. I can hope.

• • •

Devin Houston is the president/CEO of Houston Enzymes. Send comments or questions to devin.houston@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Editorial on 11/27/2019

Print Headline: The saga of the dreaded Christmas Tree

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