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We have a Christmas-tree quandary at my house this year.

For the first time in our 30 years of marriage, we may have to buy a tree. At this point, there is a huge bare spot in the corner of our living room until we decide what to do.

The prelit lights on the artificial tree we’ve had the past few years finally went out last year. We would be sitting in the living room, and suddenly a strand would glow brighter or just go out. By the end of the season, more than half the tree was dark.

My husband, as frugal as he is, would rather buy a new tree than spend hours trying to remove those tightly wound factory-installed lights.

My mother bought us that tree. After coming to visit and seeing how pitiful our old tree looked, she took me to buy a new one. The pitiful tree was at least our second hand-me-down tree from my parents.

On our first Christmas as a married couple, in 1987, my mother got a new artificial tree, so my husband and I got my parents’ old one. It was what my husband calls the bottle-brush tree, because of the shape of the branches. Each branch had to be inserted individually, based on color-coordinated holes on the pole/trunk. Of course, the paint had rubbed off after a few years. By the time we got it, a lot of guessing was involved. Then, there were little rings of fake branches that fit around the pole to hide it.

It had been our family tree for several years, and my sentimental brother vowed he would keep it forever. We stored it in the attic until he finally realized it was too ratty, despite the memories, and we took it to Goodwill.

We sold one Christmas tree at a garage sale. It was not prelit and not very big, and I have no recollection of where it came from. I wish I had it back now.

My husband and I have never had a live Christmas tree. I remember maybe one real tree that we had when I was a child. They smell great, but they give me a headache.

Real trees are expensive, too, and messy. And I can’t get the squirrel scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation out of my head, either.

My husband almost bought a used prelit tree from a co-worker, but I suggested that he offer less, and we didn’t hear from the woman until she’d already sold it for full price, I’m guessing. I’m regretting being cheap now.

I’m the spendthrift in the family, but it kills me to spend a lot of money to get a good tree when I’d rather be spending that money on presents for my loved ones.

My husband offered to make a yarn tree, which I quickly rejected. He made one when we were dating, copying a huge one he saw at the Mid-America Science Museum in Hot Springs. His tree had a round wooden base with light-green, dark-green and brown yarn from the base to the point at the top, shaped like a tree. It hung from a hook in the ceiling of his apartment.

It would be a Pinterest fail in today’s world.

The other day he stuck his head in the bathroom while I was putting on my makeup to tell me another bright idea he had. “We could stack all our presents in the shape of a tree!” he said.

Uh, no.

I think I’m just going to have to go out on a limb and buy a tree before he gets any more creative.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or

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