Photo by Author
Thanksgiving was over and another Christmas Holiday Season was upon us.
I’d invested in an artificial, but life-like-green tree that I stored in the basement. It was one piece and getting up the narrow cellar stairs took effort.
But it was worth it.
This particular year, I asked my son and his friend to take on the task of getting the tree upstairs. They found it difficult, so they pulled the tree out of the cellar door, walked through the backyard, around the front, and in through the front door.
Hey, whatever works. I didn’t have to do it and it earned them a free pizza.
It was cheap labor and everyone was happy.
Raising the Tree
I placed the tree in the stand and then began shaping it, pulling the branches down and untwisting them, one at a time. The result was an artificial tree with a real-tree appearance.
After 30-minutes of preening, it was ready.
I took particular care with the lights, always the most challenging step, making sure each string still worked. I then unwrapped the ornaments, my favorite part, admiring each one like a newly discovered gift. Again.
I topped the tree with a star or an angel and gave it one final touch, draping it in sparkling gold garland.
I lit a candle to add smell and complete the illusion.
It was lovely.
To look at.
Sight and Smell
The tree stood out at the end of the long living room like a large, multi-colored star at night. During the day, it gave a stark contrast to the ocean in the background.
But something in the air wasn’t quite right. My nose picked up the smell, and it wasn’t the candle. It was odd. Had the cat gotten sick? Did someone track something in?
I scoured the room, checking behind the couch, the piano, and inspected the rug. No, no hidden stains. Everything appeared clean and in order. I chalked it up to a one-time occurrence and sprayed some vanilla air freshener.
It absorbed the smell.
I then cracked open windows and the salty ocean air filled the room. The combination of the vanilla and ocean air would clear the indoor air.
Except that it didn’t.
The smell persisted.
And got worse.
The Sounds of the Smell
I couldn’t figure it out. The smell was tolerable if I lit the candle and opened the windows. But heat isn't cheap, so this was not a permanent solution.
The source eluded me.
For a week.
“Mom! Mom!,” my son called. “Something is dripping off the back of the tree.”
“Dripping?” I asked.
“From the back?”
“Okay, why don’t we both take a look.”
We walked around the tree, following the slow drip, drip, drip. The sound started to get louder; we were getting close.
And there it was.
The Source and Reason Revealed
A greenish plastic bag hung on a branch about halfway down. It was tied in a knot and blended in nicely with the tree.
My nose knew immediately that this was the smell. But what was it?
Whatever was in the bag was smooth. And brown. And soft.
“Oh my God, it’s a bag of dog poop!” my son exclaimed.
“We don’t have a dog. How did this happen? Is it some kind of joke?”
Hey, boys have a weird sense-of-humor. Maybe it was my son’s idea to hang a dog poop ornament on the tree.
“No, it must have gotten caught on the branch when we dragged the tree out the cellar door and to the front sidewalk.”
“And you didn’t notice? Never mind.”
So thanks to a neighbor who decided to leave their dog’s poop in front of our house, it ended up inside.
The bag and the stained tree skirt were removed by my son under protest. Hey, it had been his job and he’d been paid.
But the smell, although faint, persisted. The odiferous poop had left a lasting and unpleasant smell on branches that had been subject to the decomposing, dripping poop.
The tree was de-Christmased and put to rest.
But it’s not Christmas without a tree, so as you might have guessed, I replaced the tree. My son helped me get it in the stand and then ran out the door to find his friends.
When it comes to cheap labor, sometimes you’re better off doing things yourself.