In one of my many forays into the great sucking Time Sink that is these here Internets, I found a link to a Christmas tree made entirely from recycled materials. And it was a beautiful thing.

The subject of Christmas trees is a bit of a sore one in Barnhill-Land. Firstly, there is the question of when to put the thing up (I say ten days before Christmas; he says the day after Thanksgiving); secondly, there is the question of short needles vs. long needles (obviously short needles are superior); thirdly there is the question of the unnaturally full tree vs. the Charlie Brown tree (did you not SEE that show? Does your heart not MELT at the site of a spindly little tree with an awkward star?).

But the main argument is this: Alive? Or Not-Alive?

Holidays are a time in which the Nostalgia regions of our brains swell to the size of cantaloupes and we all become infantilized and illogical and grasping. We become set in our ways. We are uncompromiseable. I grew up with the smell of freshly cut spruce in the house at Christmastime. I remember the sharp smell of sap as my father sliced circle after circle off the base of the trunk, trying to get the thing to fit under the ceiling. I remember the clean smell of snow still clinging to the needles, the very real possibility of critters lurking in the branches, and the float of sawdust in the air.

Smell, after all, triggers nostalgia, and I want my damn nostalgia goddamnit.

Ted, on the other hand, in his infuriating reasonableness, offers numbers and statistics and facts. He talks about “dead trees” and “environmental impacts” and “carbon footprints” and “landfills” and other things that may or may not be nonsense.

He claims to have no nostalgia. And yet. He speaks so prettily about the yearly Christmas-tree-put-together that happened every year after Thanksgiving. No nostalgia, my eye!

Anyway, I may have found the thing that satisfies us both.

This morning, while wasting time (again) on the stupid internets (again) I found this:

Pretty, yes? It’s also a swing!

It was designed by architect/designer/artist, Kyle Martin, and is made from recycled plywood, PET strapping, bolts and lights. You can look at it, sit in it, stack presents inside it, and, granted, if it was in my house, my son would have found some way to destroy it in all of nine minutes, I still love the idea of it. And so did the kids:

“Look at this!” I said to them, and they gathered around the laptop. (Because that’s what we do in this modern era. The way that our ancestors gathered around fires or smoking meat or wise ancient family members or bibles or whatever. We gather around oddly-glowing laptops that are probably giving us cancer. And that’s progress.)

Leo was rapt. “Let’s make that today,” he said.

“So,” DeeDee said. “You can put your presents in there, but before christmas you can keep whatever you want in there. Like dolls.”

“Or swords,” Leo said.

“Or blankets and pillows and books,” DeeDee said.

“Or swords,” Leo said. “And guns.”

“And snacks,” DeeDee insisted.

“Yeah,” Leo concurred, “snacks are good. So are swords.”

DeeDee cradled her forehead in her fingertips.

“How is it made?” Leo wanted to know. I showed him the diagrams and I explained what the materials were. He wrinkled his brow and listened.

“But if we do it,” he said slowly. “We can make it however we want.”

“We’ll add cushions,” DeeDee said.

“And a trap door,” Leo said, folding his hands together and bringing his knuckles to his lips. He smiled.

“Why would you need to have a trap door?” I asked. This was getting good.

“To trap Santa,” he said, as if was obvious.

“Why would you want to trap Santa?” DeeDee asked, but then the realization of it started to spread across her face as well. “I see,” she said. “Well….” DeeDee, of course is my planner. “We’ll need to make extra cookies.”

“Boxes and boxes,” Leo agreed.

“And we’ll need a few bags of sugar.” She shook her head. “No. More than a few. The whole basement.”

“Why will we need sugar?” I asked.

“For the reindeer,” she explained. “They can’t fly without Santa, so they’ll be stuck here.”

“On the roof!” Leo yelled.

“But,” I pressed. “If they’re on the roof, and if they can’t fly without Santa, and if Santa is stuck inside the Christmas tree, then how will we feed the reindeer? We can’t get the sugar on the roof.”

There was a long silence. Leo scratched his head.

“I KNOW!” He shouted. “A crane. Quick mom! Find out how much it costs to buy a crane.”

I googled it.

“But if the reindeer are living in the yard – once we get them down with the crane,” Deedee said reasonably, “they’re going to make a lot of poop.”

“Is reindeer poop sparkly?” Leo asked.

“No poop is sparkly,” DeeDee said scathingly.

“Well,” I said. “This is entirely y’all’s idea. If you want to trap Santa, then you have to accept the responsibility of the consequences. The reindeer will look to you to take care of them, and you’re obligated to do so.”

“We can’t just give them sugar?” Leo asked.


He looked at the photograph of the recycled Christmas tree, an expression of longing and loss on his little face.

“Well,” he said. “I guess it would be greedy. To steal Santa.” He sighed. “Can we get our Christmas tree? Today, I mean?”

And so it begins.


  1. Nice tree. We tried the living tree one year (out of environmental guilt) and it was fine (except heavy as heck with that big root ball). But, it turns out that Frazier furs need cold winters, and we may live on a mountain, but not at a high enough elevation to keep Frazier furs alive. I know we could do our research and pick a different live tree that would be fine at our elevation, but my back says a lighter, cut tree is the way to go.

    I’m agnostic on the question of needles, through. Some of those “exotic” long needled trees can look quite nice.

  2. Fraziers ARE beautiful, but they can’t live here either. I like buying the blue spruces – the needles are sharp, but the smell is fantastic. Also, they’re local, so you don’t have quite the carbon impacts.

  3. Pingback: Thankspiration! | big ideas

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