We are not lucky people when it comes to Christmas trees.

We were invaded by hundred of tiny bugs.

Eight years ago, my husband George and I put up our tree the first week of December so that we could enjoy the colors and aroma of a fresh tree for a good three weeks. About a week later, I started noticing tiny, tick-like, mostly-dead bugs littering the bottom of our festive tree. I vacuumed them up, figuring we had some kind of pest problem. Perhaps they had come in from outdoors and promptly breathed their last.


A few days later, I found more bugs—hundreds of them—gasping for air under our tree. And there was a sticky, sap-like substance dripping from the branches. George began an Internet search that revealed that these bugs had been in a larvae state. When we brought the tree inside, into a warm environment, we inadvertently provided the perfect conditions for them to hatch. While George continued his Internet searches and shouted out very unhelpful information about the vermin—such as “the sticky substance is a secretion!”—I took down the tree.

Let’s try this again.

Six years ago, in short, the tree fell down. Every last Christopher Radko ornament was sacrificed. Bulbs were smashed. Water flooded my carpeting. And the final insult was that water soaked my 75% off Neiman Marcus tree skirt. It hung over our grill for a solid two days before it was dry enough to bring back in.

Horrified, I rallied my mood for the good of the family as George placed the tree back in its stand and I rearranged the surviving ornaments.

But when it fell again, I thought my head would explode. Apparently, the trunk was split, sacrificing any ability the tree had to stand on its own. That’s when I learned what kind of mettle George was made of. He RETURNED the tree. Who does that? And how? Do you save the receipt? Present it to the cashier and say that it just didn’t work out?

Danny Phillips, The Old Country Store proprietor, was happy to make an exchange, even sending his son to our home to help install a new defect-free tree. If you need to buy a tree, I’d start with this amazing store. The owners are friendly, honest, and delightful to work with. George even posted a positive review on Facebook. I fully expected everyone in that store to become his best friend and show up for family dinners.

Every year since, my husband has returned to “my old pal Danny Phillips” and purchased another tree from The Old Country Store. I have tried to point him toward a $30 Food Lion tree, but he always acts like I am suggesting he buy cheap vodka. We put up each tree with the usual merriment—George carefully hanging his beloved ornaments of a Rottweiler in the shape of an angel as well as his NRA ornament. I cannot figure out why the NRA even makes ornaments.

But disaster struck again.

When George pulled the plug for the lights out of the wall, one of the prongs decided to stay in the outlet. This was a major crisis because we have 2-volt fluorescent Christmas tree lights and you cannot buy them anymore. They are the retro bulbs your parents probably had—big and colorful and, apparently, energy suckers. Congress has outlawed them in favor of energy-efficient LED and incandescent bulbs. George will have none of that. He ranted about how “Congress is not going to tell him what kind of bulb to use.” Using electric tape and a set of tools, he put the plug back together, plugged the tree in, and saved Christmas.

Christmas tree

This gorgeous little tree can be yours for $15 at Whole Foods in Cornelius.

This year because of the rain and snow, we never seemed able to find a good day to bring a sopping wet tree into the house. So we went with something smaller and more tasteful, and also reminiscent of Charlie Brown’s pitiful tree. Even my dog Baxter is disappointed in me.