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Oh, Christmas Tree

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Anthony Ring (Buy photo)

By Anthony Ring

If you ever decide to remove lights from a pre-lit artificial Christmas tree, it is vitally important to have the following tools on hand:

1. Needle-nose pliers
2. Scissors
3. Sturdy gloves
4. A time machine, so you can go back and slap yourself in the face before you begin.

For the past five years or so, our family has been using an artificial tree that was given to us by a friend. It is very well made and it looks realistic. It has served us well and saved us a good deal of money, but some of the light strands have started going bad, possibly due to being forcibly crammed into a bag and dragged, pulled or dropped down the stairs for the past half a decade.

We had the bright idea of just pulling off the pre-installed lights and replacing them with new lights. After all, the tree still looked good. We thought, "Hey, it's just a few strands of regular Christmas lights tied onto the branches, right? How hard could it be?"

Very.

If you ever lose all sense of reason and decide to try this yourself, here are some tips:

1. Find the first strand of lights and follow it to the first point where the cord is attached to a branch.
2. Grabbing the center pole firmly with both hands, lift the tree and throw it out the window. Proceed to the store and buy a new tree.

I know it sounds crazy, but it's almost as if tree manufacturers never expected consumers to want to remove the lights. If you have a well-built tree like ours, the cord will be attached to the branches by wire ties and green plastic clips. These clips and ties cannot be easily removed barehanded. They require some sort of metal implement, such as pliers, scissors or a broadsword. They also are deeply embedded in the tree, so you must reach through thousands of tiny, sharp plastic needles to reach each one. There seems to be about 400 clips per branch. Assuming there are 1,000 branches on the tree, you can calculate that it also will require a good quantity of alcohol to get through a job of this magnitude.

It is much easier to tackle a project such as this if you do not have to deal with three hyped-up children (and one dog) who are bursting with holiday excitement. For one thing, everyone knows you can't get anything done efficiently if you are unable to curse your way through the tough spots.

We started this process early in the morning. Several hours and a couple of pints of blood later, we were roughly half done. It was hard to estimate progress, though, because every time you undid one clip, it seemed 14 more would pop up out of nowhere. We could tell that we were making some sort of progress, however, due to the 3-foot deep pile of discarded wire-ties and plastic clips surrounding the tree.

As usual, the point at which we realized we might have taken on more than we could handle was the exact point at which it was impossible to turn back. This was when I suggested that we should take a break and finish it in the morning. But by this time, what had started out as a fun family Christmas event had turned into an all-out battle with the tree, and my wife refused to surrender. Her response was, "We are getting in the holiday spirit today if it kills us."

Eventually, we conquered the tree and removed all of the lights. Somehow, everyone survived, including the tree. Now the tree is lit with colorful new lights, which will stay on the tree forever and are never to be removed again.

Luckily, the kids seemed oblivious to the difficulty we were having and maintained their high levels of holiday joy. They were just happy when the tree was finally ready and they could begin haphazardly tossing fragile ornaments onto it.

So, by the end of it, we may have been scratched, scraped up and worn out, but the tree is up and it looks nice. More importantly, the kids are happy and the family now has a shared holiday memory. This will be a year that we will never forget. It probably will seem much funnier next year.

I learned a great deal from this experience:

1. Pre-lit Christmas trees have a lot of lights on them.
2. Never say things like, 'How hard could it be?' When you do, the universe conspires to try and show you.
3. Some of the memories that we cherish the most are the ones where everything goes wrong.

Anthony Ring lives in Front Royal with his wife, Sara, and their 3 children. Read more about their adventures at anthonyring.blogspot.com



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