News (sort of), Or, In Which My Christmas Tree Attempts to Kill Me

In the first place, I think my Christmas tree is trying to kill me.

In years past, we’ve made do with fresh-cut cedar trees, which have the benefit of being pretty much free because they are pretty much weeds, and no self-respecting farmer wants them in his field, where they tend to grow wild if you’re not bush-hogging every year.  Cedars smell great, but they are prickly and often weird-shaped, and dry out quickly.  Not to mention that you cannot hang even moderately heavy ornaments on them.

The year after I mentioned that I would rather be stabbed in the eyeball with a shrimp fork than clean up buckets of fallen cedar needles ever again, The CEO brought home a white pine.  It was nice.  We had one or two of those, and I didn’t mind them – they don’t have much smell, and the branches are weak and gappy, but overall they have a nice shape and can handle most of our ornaments, and the needles are soft.  One year we had a Fraser Fir, and that was lovely too.  It smelled good, it had soft springy needles and sturdy branches, and was a thoroughly  nice tree.

Last year he brought home a Canaan Fir instead of a Fraser.  We all liked it: pretty shape, soft needles, sturdy branches, a bit fuller than a Fraser… very nice.  Very nice.

Last year I had what I thought was a cold all throughout Christmas.  No biggie, right? It’s cold-and-flu season. Germs are floating around.  I sneezed and coughed and blew my nose a lot, but it wasn’t that big a deal. Ehhhhh, I had a cold.

This year, The CEO brought home another Canaan Fir.  It’s gorgeous. Not as tall as last year’s, but still really pretty: full, graceful, soft.

Within 30 minutes of this beautiful tree being in the house, I started to sneeze. My eyes watered. My nose got stuffed up.  Less than 24 hours after the tree had been set up, I had a full-blown stuffy nose and tight chest, all the hallmarks of a classic allergy attack.

Listen, I am allergic to pretty much everything.  As a kid, I had that patch test thing done – you  know, where they mark your back up into a grid, scratch you in each section and introduce a known allergen to see what causes a rash in that area, in order to identify the things you’re allergic to.  Oddly, I am only mildly allergic to pet dander, but I am very allergic to: tomatoes, chocolate, pollens, dust, dust mites, molds, numerous trees, and every kind of cultivated grass except bluegrass.

(Yeah. Grass.  I vividly remember going outside one summer evening when I was about five, running across the backyard to tell my dad goodnight.  He had just finished mowing the grass.  When I got back in the house, my bare feet were covered in welts.)

When I leave the house, I feel better. When I come home, I’m miserable again.  I think that’s a pretty clear indication.

So it appears to be that the cause of all my misery is my Christmas tree.  Which stinks, because it really is pretty, and I hate to make the kids undecorate it and take it outside or something, but I am having difficulty with teh whole breathing thing.  Not to mention the whole smelling thing. Please bear with me.

In the second place, I’m so far behind on Scent Diary that I’m just going to have to forego posting two whole weeks of fragrance data and self-absorbed commentary.  Sorry ’bout that.  Bad Mals, Bad Bad Mals! There will be one next week… unless the gremlins do actually eat my head.

(It could happen. I swear, I hear them skittering around in the walls at night.)

In the third place, but in reality more important than the first two items, Bookworm got accepted into Yale’s Class of 2017!!!

Is that not awesome?? I KNOOWW!!!!

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36 Responses to News (sort of), Or, In Which My Christmas Tree Attempts to Kill Me

  1. Elisa says:

    I’m also allergic to everything (OK, maybe half of stuff), including all the cute pets. There is some kind of commonly sold Christmas tree that I’m allergic to. I can’t remember which one it is, but I know my mom knew to avoid that type every year.

    Congrats to you and Bookworm! Yale is amazing!!

    • mals86 says:

      It really is a pain being allergic to stuff. I could never eat cake at friends’ birthday parties. (These days I just eat the chocolate and follow up with a Sudafed.) I don’t remember having the sniffly reaction to any tree before, so maybe it’s just this variety that bothers me. Dunno.

      Thanks! I think she’s an amazing kid and I’d be proud of her anyway, but it’s pretty cool to know that at least one exclusive school thinks she’s amazing too.

  2. NataliadelOeste says:

    Out here in OR, we have lots of Noble Firs, some Grand Firs, the ubiquitous Douglas Fir…etc. I’ve never heard of anyone using a cedar for a Christmas tree. I scored a Silver Spruce this year from our tree lot (fresh cut)…it has a lovely bluish aura to it.

    BIG congratulations to Bookworm on her acceptance to Yale. It’s fun following your family’s exploits! :)

    • mals86 says:

      Cedars are ubiquitous here in the Appalachians. They grow wild – and no, nobody SELLS cedar trees specifically for Christmas trees, they’re an old-school homegrown sort of Christmas tradition. If you can’t afford anything else, or if you’re a traditionalist and you want a tree like the ones your grandparents had, you get a cedar.

      I’m so proud of my girl!

  3. ChickenFreak says:

    WooHOO! Yale! Congratulations to you and Bookworm and all!

    • mals86 says:

      Thanks! We’re floating on the “wow, the big fancy school wants her” cloud. Still waiting to hear from Princeton, Wake Forest, and William & Mary, but we’re pretty sure W&M will accept her since it gives priority to in-state students (it’s a public Virginia university).

  4. Marie says:

    Oh my, I am so happy for Bookworm and your family! Congratulations! I love reading your blog Mals, as much for the family related content as the fragrance content. My son is a Music Business major and music and track were the things that he was passionate about in high school, so I can relate to and take joy in so many of your stories. Keep ‘em coming!

    I hope you win out over the beautiful but evil Christmas tree. May you and your family have a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    • mals86 says:

      Thank you very much! So glad to hear that we have these things in common – and good luck to your son. College is going well for him?

      I think we’ll hang on to the tree until right after Christmas, and not get this variety again. Merry Christmas to you too!

      • Marie says:

        Yes, he has had a wonderful college experience – he’s a senior – he’ll walk with his class in May, but still has to do his internship over the summer or fall.

        His dream is to get a job as a facilities manager for a music school or program at the college level. He absolutely thrives in an academic environment – has loved school since the day he stepped foot into kindergarten.

        • mals86 says:

          Exciting! I love it that there are people who seem just born to teach. I had a friend who always, always wanted to do that – every time we had a playdate, Jennifer wanted to be “teacher.” And yep, she’s a good one.

  5. tammy says:

    CONGRATULATIONS, Bookworm! What a joy to hear such good news in light of the last week.

    And my husband used to get a cold like clockwork every Christmas. He works in a hospital and is susceptible to colds anyway, but I noticed that every since we got a fake tree, he hasn’t gotten a cold! I think it was probably some sort of allergy. In all fairness, that same year he also moved out of the hospital proper and into an office where he isn’t around patients, but still….

    The artificial trees are very nice now, Mals. I recommend you get one from Costco if you have one near you.

    And just because I am so proud and excited, please let me say CONGRATULATIONS, Bookworm one more time!!

    • mals86 says:

      I know, it seems so sad that there are parents who’ll never see an acceptance letter, never buy a prom dress, never worry about a new driver… but we rejoiced all the same. She’s worked very very hard, and we felt that her grades and test scores and challenging classes and extracurriculars made the Ivies a stretch, but also a possibility.

      I really think it’s the tree aggravating my allergies. The newer ones are so nice now – I noticed one at Lowe’s the other day that I thought was very pretty and not terribly expensive. (I don’t have access to a Costco.)

  6. Dionne says:

    We do artificial trees in my house, as The Engineer is emphatic that there’s not a real one – it was his job to clean up the needles as a kid. I’m not particular either way, so his opinion carries the day for this one.

    And major congratulations to Bookworm! That’s really exciting. In our house, we’re preparing to send 19yo Bones off to Kenya for the next two years; the whole experience feels a tad surreal.

    • mals86 says:

      I grew up with an artificial tree because it had been my dad’s job to clean up the needles when HE was a kid. I don’t mind them. The CEO, however, has many memories of going out with his dad to cut a cedar, and he didn’t want to give up that tradition. Gradually, though, he got sick of the prickly cedar needles but still didn’t want to go artificial. I think that it might be best to get a fake tree next year – the newer ones do look rather nice.

      So what’s Bones doing in Kenya? Peace Corps, mission field, college? That’s exciting and sort of scary – just that your baby would be so faaaaar away from home for so long. Though I’m sure he’s thrilled.

      • Dionne says:

        We just picked up a new tree this year from Costco, and the outer branches look and feel so real it’s almost uncanny. My only complaint is that no one seems to be selling artificial pine trees anymore, and pines are my favorite.

        Bones is going for a full-time mission; fortunately my own parents got back last year after serving for 18 months in Uganda, so my mom’s been a big help in knowing how to help him prepare. I’ve still got to teach him how to make beans from scratch, as beans and eggs will likely be his primary sources of protein.

        • mals86 says:

          Uganda, wow! I’m sure he’ll do fine in Kenya (there *are* adults with the mission trip, right?) and find it a wonderful experience.

  7. Anna in Edinburgh says:

    Congratulations to Bookworm: what a boost to her after all her hard work!

    And commiserations to you for your allergic reaction to the tree. Good luck surviving till after Christmas:-)

    • mals86 says:

      Thanks very much!

      And I’m starting to feel a little better, now that we’ve changed the filters in the heating system. I think that helped.

  8. sacre bleu says:

    First, congrats to Bookworm. I hope she is able to choose the school that seems the best fit for her, and is not swayed by the prestige, cuz when it comes to Yale, well, the prestige is huge.
    Second, DO you have a covered porch? Just pick up the darn tree and move it to the porch, outside a window. It’s not worth being sick for two weeks . . . is it?!

    • mals86 says:

      We did do some college visits last summer. Yale, Princeton, William & Mary, and Wake Forest were all schools that she liked and thought she’d enjoy. Harvard was off the list. She didn’t like the place and didn’t even want to apply. She crossed Georgetown and Wellesley off her lists too after visiting them. Haven’t heard back from the other schools, which is okay because she applied early to Yale. Of course she’ll be able to choose where she wants to go.

      I do have a porch. But the tree is taller than the porch (our foyer is 19 feet tall)!

  9. Aparatchick says:

    Big Congrats! to Bookworm (was there ever any doubt she’d get in? Nah!)

    I grew up in the Pacific NW, where Doug firs are the norm. I loved the smell and wasn’t allergic to them. Fast forward many years to when I move to Florida and whatever the heck kind of Christmas tree that Florida Christmas tree sellers import from Georgia is the kind that tries to kill me. So I have turned to Plan B: fake tree and candles for that Christmas scent in the house.

    • mals86 says:

      Well, we thought it would be a stretch for her. Her math SATs were not stellar (670, which isn’t bad but is below the usual Ivy League average) but her verbals were 800, and we have no relatives who had attended any Ivy schools so we were not at all sure she’d be accepted. William & Mary is probably a lock, given that as a state public university, it gives precedence to Virginia students.

      I don’t know that I have ever seen a Douglas fir.

  10. As an ex Conecticutter may I just say, Yay! Go Yale! Go Bookworm!The area around new Haven is lovely too. It’s quite a place.

  11. hajusuuri says:

    Congratulations to Bookworm! I hope you are feeling better. My family has so many allergies that long ago, it was decided that we will celebrate Christmas without a Christmas tree, ever…real or artificial.

  12. HemlockSillage says:

    Whoo-hooo! Awesome! Go, Bookworm!!!!

    I read your post, and was so happy for her. You must all be over the moon. Congratulations. Now, as the acceptances roll in, the question will be where does she want to go, and that is a great position. I certainly wish her the best. From reading your blog, it is clearly well earned.

    As for you Christmas tree, I’m so sorry! I’d looked at your blog site several times, and wondered what was up, thinking the busyness of the season had taken over posting. I love the aggro action figure photo; that made me grin. Dunno how to advise you in this. Even the artificial trees have a flame retardant that on contact, gives me hives. I put on heavy flannel and gloves, take antihistamines and put up (and take down) the tree anyway. It’s just so pretty! If I can con someone into doing the lights for me, I will. Just hanging the ornaments is not as bad. You are being a good sport this year, but consider picking up an artificial tree in the after Christmas sales. Hope you feel better. (Other thought–if you start having real breathing trouble, besides runny nose, you may need to be grinchy and get rid of the tree for *safety* and get medical help
    :( Congrats again to Bookworm on her acceptance!

    • mals86 says:

      Thanks very much! I’m so proud.

      I know, that picture made me laugh! I am starting to feel a little better, but I agree, I suspect that we’d all be better off learning to love an artificial tree. My allergies, thank goodness, have always been of the runny-nose type rather than the need-an-Epipen type, but I’ll be on my toes.

  13. RusticDove says:

    Yay Bookworm!! That’s truly awesome news. Congratulations to her, and to you mama. I know you must be thrilled.

    So sorry you’re allergic to your lovely tree. What a bummer. I don’t know what I’d do if that happened to me. You see, I set up a few different Christmas trees as I’m insane. No. Really. My husband shakes his head and can’t believe what I go through every year to make our home festive and sparkly. But I love it. My only gripe is that I can NOT find my favorite kind of tree anymore – nobody sells them. A Balsam. My absolute favorite kind of tree. To me, they’re perfect. Simply can’t be found. Oh well – Christmas is still awesome and magical and my favorite time of year.

    Wishing you & yours a wonderful, blessed holiday season C!! XOXO

    • mals86 says:

      “A few different Christmas trees”… I’m laughing, picturing your poor husband shaking his head and smiling. Because, really, why not do what you enjoy? I’m sure there are people who would consider my nutcracker collection excessive.

      I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a balsam fir. I wonder if Christmas trees go through cycles of popularity, and perhaps they’ll come back – there was a time when everybody wanted white pines, and then they all went for Fraser firs, and now? I dunno.

      A wonderful Christmas to you too, V.

  14. Natalie says:

    Congratulations to Bookworm! Very impressive!

  15. Portia says:

    Sad about the tree HAPPY about Bookworm.
    Portia xx

  16. Undina says:

    Congratulations to your dauchter (and you) and the hugst sympathy on the Christmas tree allergy front. It’s very unfortunate. But at least you have a list of “safe” trees for future.

    • mals86 says:

      Thanks, J! I’m thinking we’re just going to throw in the towel and buy a nice artificial one. I’m tired of sniffling through Christmas.

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