The fun thing about cutting our own Christmas tree from the forest is that it's always an adventure. The thrill of the chase, and the feeling that the "perfect" tree could be just beyond the meadow beckons us to go on our yearly search for the elusive evergreen.
There is a down side to cutting our own tree, of course. Sometimes there are a few glitches. A handful of challenges that must be overcome with ingenuity and determination. There is the universal problem of cutting the tree that looked small in the forest, but when we get it home, it won't fit through the door, and bends over at the ceiling. There are other, more unique challenges too.
My mother-in-law gets a far-away look in her eye each year as she tells the story of the time they bought a living Christmas tree. When they brought the tree into the house, an infestation of bugs started hatching from it's limbs, and covered all of the gifts. She relays the tale with the face of a veteran tree cutter whose seen many battles on the tree front.
Our family has a ten year tree cutting history now, with our own legendary tree cutting tales to tell. But nothing beats the year that we got the "smelly tree".
Four years ago, we trudged through deep snow to scout out the most gorgeous Christmas tree we had ever found. We posed for a picture in front of it, and did the ceremonial cutting. Then we loaded it up and took it home. I couldn't wait to put it in our living room.
We got home, stoked up the wood stove to warm the living room, and then started to decorate our gorgeous tree. From outside, our house looked like a perfect little Thomas Kinkade painting. A snowy roof with a view inside the window of a tree trimmed in twinkly lights and decorations. But from inside the house, things weren't so perfect. As we sat back on the couch to admire our work, we noticed something.
"What's that smell?" my husband asked.
"I don't know. Did you check your shoes?" I said.
"The tree doesn't smell 'piney' like it usually does." he said.
"It didn't smell in the forest! The warm air in the house must have brought out the smell." I complained.
So I decided to buy a pine scented Glade plug-in to put behind the tree.
It didn't help.
By day two, the offending odor was out of control.
"It smells like elk pee in the living room." my husband said.
"You know, like that elk estrous you buy in a bottle when you're hunting." he quipped.
"Where's it coming from?" I asked.
Then we did the only thing we knew to do. We started sniffing the tree. After a few minutes, we located the branches that were giving off the stench. I decided to drench the branches in Lysol spray.
"If anything will kill that smell, Lysol will!" I said, confidently.
Day three... the smell remained.
"My gosh, it stinks in here!" My kids said.
"Well Mommy has used plug-ins and Lysol, and NOTHING IS WORKING!"
I was losing it. I had spent several hours decorating the tree, and I didn't want to undecorate it and get a new one. We were in too deep.
Yet, the musky pee smell was overwhelming. Drastic times called for drastic measures. I went out to the garage and got the branch cutters. I stood in front of my beautiful tree and sniffed. Then I lopped off one smelly branch after another, until all of the offending odor was gone.
After the job was complete, my perfectly shaped, gorgeous Christmas Tree had a gaping hole in it where I had cut out four branches. It was ugly. It looked ridiculous, but it FINALLY smelled good again. For four weeks we had to gently explain to people why a giant chunk of our tree was missing.
It was humbling. It was humiliating. It was down right ridiculous. I mean, we were known for finding good trees. This could damage our reputation. I just kept telling myself, this too shall pass. This too shall pass.
Now that several years have gone by, the pain of the incident has diminished, and we can finally laugh over the whole thing. And some day, when the kids are grown, I'll get that same far-away look in my eye that mother-in-law gets as I tell the legendary story of the year we got the tree that smelled like elk pee.