A Christmas tree named ‘Shrek’


I’ve been known to name my cars, and even my guitar (“Lois”), but never a Christmas tree—until last year. Christmas 2001 featured “Shrek” lurking in our living room. I think it’s the perfect name for a huge, hunchbacked evergreen monster. So, hoist your hot cider and sing along. “O(gre) Christmas Tree, O(gre) Christmas Tree.”

For “Christmas Past,” we’ve had our children with us as we searched the volunteer fire department lot for the perfect tree. (Since trees are one of the main causes of holiday fires, this seems a logical place to buy the green kindling wood.) With my wife and two kids, we had four angles from which to judge a tree for bare spots, crooked trunks, and any other arboreal aberrations.

Last year, our daughter was married with her own Christmas tree and our son was in college with lights hanging from the dorm curtain rods. So, Lois and I were forced to select a tree from just two perspectives. At first, everything seemed to go well.

First, in northern Indiana, the temperature was 69 degrees – on December 5th! Secondly, we spotted a great tree within minutes, had it in the car trunk, and back home in less than fifteen minutes. (Both the abnormal temperature and agreement on the tree should have been red warning lights.)

I’ve also been known to name our tree stand. I won’t go into to detail, but suffice it to say it’s a worthless piece of scrap metal. Every other year – after threatening it with the trash can – I had managed to force it to hold the tree in a relatively upright position, even if I had to wire the tree to the curtain rods. This year, no matter how many books I used to level the stand and no matter how much baling wire to tether it in place, Shrek refused to remain upright.

“That’s it! I’m going to The Home Depot for a stand with some testosterone.” I bought an industrial-strength stand that could hold the tree at Rockefeller Center. It’s got 1/4-inch thick steel legs, a half-gallon water reservoir, and 3/8’s-inch bolts to tame the most tenacious tree. And it worked perfectly. I carefully plumbed the bottom of the trunk, tightened the bolts, and stepped back to admire my handiwork.

“We’ve got a deformed tree,” my wife nearly cried. Sure enough, we had a giant green hunchback squatting in our living room. “Can’t we take it back?”

Like good old Charlie Brown, I argued, “It’s a nice tree. All it needs is a little love.”

Okay, it needed a conifer chiropractor and a Beverly Hills tree surgeon. But, with some compensating with the tree stand bolts, the top finally pointed up, even though the bottom was heading south like a palm tree in a hurricane.

For the first few years of married life, our tree was a perfectly shaped and symmetrical, lush forest green TOILET BRUSH. That’s the give-away for spotting an artificial tree – it’s too perfectly shaped and symmetrical, lush forest green.

Real trees, like ogres (and the rest of us non-supermodel, silicon-free people) have physical and personality flaws that give them (and us) character.

Maybe that’s why Shrek is one of my favorite movies. (Roll the clip.)

      Shrek: Ogres are like onions.

      Donkey: They both smell?

      Shrek: NO! They have LAYERS. There’s more to us underneath. So, ogres are like onions.

My favorite part of the movie is when Princess Fiona, who turns into an ogre every night, finally turns into her real self which is . . .

WARNING: IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN “SHREK” AND DON’T WANT TO RUIN THE ENDING, STOP READING NOW!

. . . an ogre. Yep, instead of the standard “happily ever after” ending, we discover that the kind, loving female ogre, has actually been cursed to turn into an egocentric, image-conscious princess by day.

So, along with Lucy Van Pelt, my wife had to finally admit that “Shrek” was a nice tree after all.

Yep, all it needed was a little bit of love and understanding. Just like all of us.

Wishing you a “real” holiday season!

Copyright © 2002 James N. Watkins

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