12/09/2014 12:08 pm ET Updated Feb 08, 2015

How to Find the Perfect Christmas Tree? Listen

Tom Merton via Getty Images

My only requirement to finding the perfect Christmas tree -- fir, pine or spruce, it doesn't matter -- it must speak to me.

When my children were little and didn't care if their snowsuits made them look like pint sized Michelin Men, we bundled them up and headed out into the countryside for some serious coniferous convo. Why not a tree lot? Because, at the time, I was young, with a good back and I said lots were for used cars, not creating a Christmas memory. We took turns picking out the tree that I would transform into something tinseled, ornamented, and lit up -- abies balsamea dragus queenus.

My son picked unconventional Bristlecone Pines that begged the questions: Would it fit through the front door? Released from it's safety sheath, would we be able to sit on the furniture and, once placed in the five gallon tree stand, would we need guy wires for extra added stability? No. No. And... yes.

My daughter had a penchant for somewhat symmetrical, classic balsams, but by the time she was in college, her taste in trees had reflected her taste in men -- trees that seemed fine enough, but didn't quite fit in with our scheme and by the time we warmed up to them, she dragged them to the curb.

My husband chose trees that required the least amount of retro fitting, that didn't need too much in the way of trunk trimming and would burn nicely in the outdoor fire pit.

I usually passed on perfect-for-us balsams because they had bad vibes. The stand of scotch pines? Nope. Not feeling it. One year we let a Fraser Fir go. It was a real stand-out in a field of also rans. Not too cone-shaped. Fragrant. Good gapage. My husband and children deemed it perfect. "Go ahead," it said to me. "Take me out of my natural habitat, cut me off at the knees, put me into a metal dish, embed screws into my flesh and decorate me with all kinds of goo-gaas that make me look like a cheap whore, I dare you." We left it for the under-dressed family with the yappy Bichon in a pink Santa outfit.


We are now an empty nester with wonky backs and... do we really want to trip over last year's stumps? Uh, no. I will find a tree that communicates to me from a tree lot that meets my sincerity standards.

  1. It must be lit by strands of big, white light bulbs.
  2. Multi-generational tree lot family members dressed in blaze orange.
  3. A hand painted sign with Vern's, Merle's, or Earl's on it.
  4. A fire burning in a 50 gallon drum.
  5. No hot chocolate, no Santa, no music, and no crafts for the kids.
We found a lot that met all of the above requirements. A tree shouted to me from the back row, "I may be twisted, have irregularities, might need tree branch extensions but who among us is perfect?" The trunk was crooked. There were big gaps for great-grandma's ornaments that survived the tree fire of 1911, the sequined, feathered and golden macaroni-d made by my son and daughter's 6-year-old hands and those Star Trek ornaments that I keep "forgetting" to put on the tree, that no one notices until we're done unwrapping gifts and I have to drag them out from the bins in the crawl space and find spots for the Romulan War Bird, The Enterprise and the Borg Cube. We ponied up the cash. Watching it get forced into the bundler was a lot like the time I had to force myself into a pair of Spanx without the help of Merle or Earl's five grandsons. It required a bit of pruning off the top and bottom and once it was released from it's fish net stocking, I got to know it better. It wasn't a tinsel type. Garland would make it look like it was trying too hard. I went with five strands of flicker lights, icicles and the six bins of ornaments. Five days later I deemed it done. It's still speaking, because every time the lights go on, the Borg Cube says, "Merry Christmas. We are the Borg. Resistance is futile."