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The 2003 tree dilemma is solved

White lights sparkle from my tree as I walk through my living room. Christmas is in the air - at last. This festive holiday look, however, came with much thought, debate and a little trial and error.

It started on Sunday when I decided it was time to put up the tree. I'll admit decorating the tree does not hold the same fascination it did when I was a child.

When you don't weave and string and fight with the lights, it's a lot more fun. Throwing icicles on after the grownups finish the hard work - now that's tree decorating at its best.

Anyway, the tree we had gave up the ghost on Christmas night last year. With a mighty crash it fell forward, its taped-together stand finally crumbling under the pressure.

The tree served us well for several years. Fully assembled with lights in place, it waited patiently in the storage building. (I figured out a way to store the thing all put together with the lights still on it, kind of a do-it-yourself pre-lighted tree).

Back to this year. Since my pre-strung invention was gone, I decided to buy a commercial "pre-lite" tree when they went on sale last year. On Sunday, I opened the box and read the instructions for assembly.

"Forget it," I told my husband. "I'm not fooling with this complicated mess."

And so began the great Christmas tree dilemma of 2003. I decided I'd pull the Norfolk Pine out of the green house and use it for a Christmas tree. It is about my height, so I figured it would work.

My poor husband hauled the heavy plant up the steps, through the laundry room and dropped it by the piano.

I spent three hours trying to make it look like a respectable Christmas tree. I'd forgotten it blew over while it was outside this summer. A couple of the branches are in a permanent backward twist, not conducive to supporting lights or ornaments.

I finally gave up and undecorated the poor tree. My husband carried it back out the front door, down the steps and into the green house. I think I heard it thanking him for the rescue.

Now I was back to square one with the tree. I surveyed the living room giving thought to proper placement issues.

"If I move my chair over to here," I said, talking to myself, (something I do when I move furniture), "I could slide the end table to there and wedge the tree beside the fireplace.

"No, that won't work. I'd have to climb through the branches to reach the telephone."

That started a tree hunting expedition. I considered a real tree, but I hate to commit tree murder and I don't like cleaning up the remains. Then I thought about a potted Christmas tree but had concerns about wet soil in close proximity to electricity.

So it was to be an artificial tree. After revisiting the space/furniture placement issue, I decided a smaller tree sitting on the six-legged sofa table I inherited from my grandmother was the way to go. Since it was the table she used for her tree for several years, it had sentimental value and best of all no furniture needed moving.

I looked at three-foot pines, four-foot spruces, white trees, green trees and fiber optic ones that gave off a spooky kind of rainbow glow.

I settled on a four-foot pre-lite pine, but on the way to make the purchase I remembered the trees I had seen and it hit me the words "pre-lite" added anywhere from $5 to $100 to their price.

"I am buying a four-foot tree pre strung with 100 lights," I said to my daughter who pays no attention to my rambling. "I can get a four-foot tree with no lights for five less dollars, so I am paying five dollars for 100 lights. No way."

With that realization, I turned into the dollar store parking lot and purchased a lovely little four-foot pine.

At home, I strung that baby with 200 sparkling lights, decked it with my best ornaments and set it on my grandmother's table. It smiles at me every time I pass.

And so another Blackmon Christmas story has a happy ending.