Life comes in threes. It’s the key to comedic timing, nice design and alarms during raging infernos. It’s the number that confirms a real case for or against something (two examples could be coincidental, three is a situation). It also just happens to be the number of Christmas trees we had this year.
The first tree was purchased too soon. I’ll admit it. But while many get irritated when Christmas music starts playing in department stores, coffee shops and public plazas, I get anxious and excited. Time moves fast and the earlier corporate holiday initiatives start to take hold, the sooner I can justify decorations and presents. Or buying a live tree from a small lot under the 580 freeway. The poor shrub barely lasted three weeks—by the end of which its branches were drooping under the weight of the ornaments and it began to look more like a fire hazard in the living room than a nostalgic ode to the most wonderful time of year.The second was a silver creation I’ve had since college. Guessing it’s from the 50s or early 60s, this metallic beauty generally comes out mid-December as a backup tree. Often jammed in a backroom or stuck on a sun porch, it’s quick and easy to set up and often leaves me wondering why I ever feel compelled to buy one that requires water. I still can’t explain. This year, the silver tree was unveiled on a warm California afternoon and then hastily placed near the front door later that same day. It stood in the brown shadow of the first tree for a week with only a few ornaments on its branches. This antique epitomizes the plastic, “Las Vegas” version of Christmas I like to celebrate and therefore ranks high among my most prized possessions.The third and final tree was a highly discounted beast purchased on the eve of Christmas eve to replace tree number one. Missing enough branches to prevent it from having a good side and slightly crooked at the top, there was something about it that caught my eye. It was also extremely fresh—which gave me hope after watching the other quickly turn brittle and dry. Naturally, this one didn’t fit into my cheap Walgreens tree stand without a few rounds of furious stump shaving with a dull hacksaw. But as we all eventually learn, making the most of the things you love isn’t always convenient and when the third three of our three-three holiday was tweaked and trimmed, it was one of the most outstanding of my adult life.As you may have guessed, tree three still stands—healthy as a dead tree can be. And as discarded not-so-evergreens begin to line the sidewalks and alleyways of our lush Oakland neighborhood, I’m conflicted. I’m not ready to let the beast go just yet. After all, once the tree three is gone it’s just January and there’s nothing very festive about that.