A Tale of Two Christmas Trees: A Metaphor for 2020

When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. And when life (or your poor decision making ability) hands you a tree too big for your house, you get two trees! 

Note to the reader: This is not horse-related, just general holiday entertainment and reflection at my expense. 

As 2020 slogs toward its inevitable end (which can’t seem to come soon enough), so many of us seem to lament that this is the year that just won’t quit. We’ve had too many global and national disasters to list without leaving something out and many people I know have taken personal hits that only serve to amplify the already frustrating (to say the least) situation.

I’m not original enough to claim that this year hasn’t been anything other than what it is:

But, I will add some levity and offer an apt metaphor as we look toward 2021 with hope through our fatigue-laden eyes.

One of the many gifts of 2020 was a house fire in late June (you can read about that here). The upside of the fire and subsequent displacement is that we landed well. We’re in a rental that my in-laws own that is a rather nice rental property (to say the least) with these awesome cathedral ceilings in the great room. My family celebrates Christmas and I decided that, since I have the ceilings for it, I was going to get a big Christmas tree — like, REALLY big. I mean, 2020 has been a total $4!t year, so why not make Christmas epic and use the space in this house to my advantage, right?

Well, it appears I vastly misjudged the tree-to-door ratio. By, like, a lot.

When I tell this story to people, they love to insist that pine trees have somewhat malleable branches and that, as long as you go in trunk-first, the tree likely will fit as the branches fold up toward the top of the tree.


What people don’t understand is that I like sturdy trees. You know the ones — their branches not only are strong enough to support all the lights, garland and ornaments my heart desires, but also they manage to poke you with their sharp needles in the process (it’s a lot like owning a mare, really). These hearty and unyielding blue spruces are great at their jobs, but are not so great at squeezing through doors — especially when they’re 12-feet tall.

Only photos can convey the true magnitude of this tree compared to the doors in this house (which, by the way, are apparently smaller than the average door — who knew?).

Y’all, I am not kidding when I say that I misjudged the tree-to-door ratio.

Don’t mind the Hello Fresh boxes and other detritus that attest to my family living in the house. Photo by C.J. Sloan.

 Also, our faces in these photos pretty much sum up the situation. Photo by DeAnn Long Sloan.

I went into this endeavor with the best laid plans. Great house, Christmas, beautiful tree — all will be well. When it came to the execution, things fell — well — slightly short of my expectations. Okay, very short of my expectations. We had the option of taking off the door panels in order to get the tree in the house (seems a bit excessive, no?) or cutting off a significant portion of the bottom of the tree to get it to fit into the house (as you can see, we DID have a chainsaw by the door just for that purpose, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do that either). So there we were, with the ass-end of a Christmas tree in the house, and the rest of its sharp blue needle laden body out of the house.

If this isn’t a metaphor for 2020, I don’t know what is.

* * *

Looking back, I can’t really remember what I expected going into 2020, but I don’t think any of us expected what we got. No matter what our expectations were, I think it is safe to say that this year fell vastly short.

When I wrote my New Year’s resolution for the annual Horse Nation staff share, I had a vague feeling that I was tempting fate by putting in writing my hopes for my horse and me for 2020. Hah! Between the pandemic, the house fire, my mare’s fractured pastern, her most recent attempt on her own life (a severed artery in her right front leg — WTF!!??) and all the other things that have made up the fabric of 2020, I never could have imagined the level to which that vague feeling was correct. I mean, come on. 

But here’s the thing. Despite all the horrors of this year, there have been incredible kindnesses and acts of humanity as well. We’ve been able to witness the silver lining in real time. Undoubtedly our lives never will be the same. We’ve had to make changes and adaptations, the ramifications of which we can’t even begin to understand. Some of them are heartbreaking, but others are moving us forward.

* * *

Back to the two Christmas trees. After standing in the rain with the ass-end of a tree a third of a way in the house and the rest of it out on the deck, it was time to re-evaluate my course of action.

Sure, I really really wanted a big tree in the great room, but how likely was that going to be without making some fairly ridiculous decisions? Pretty damned unlikely.

So we decided to punt and reimagine my Christmas tree vision. We’re fortunate to have fairly unlimited access to well maintained live trees, so getting a second tree was a no-brainer.

Enter Deck Tree:

Original 12-foot tree, now on the deck. Photo by DeAnn Long Sloan.

And Tree 2.0:

Tree 2.0, nestled in the corner of the den. Photo by DeAnn Long Sloan.

We now have two trees, and I don’t think I would have it any other way. Tree 2.0 (the inside tree) is much smaller than I would have hoped and in a different part of the house, but it’s beautiful and decorated with the kids’ handmade ornaments. So of course it’s perfect.

And I am completely obsessed with Deck Tree. Especially since we got about a foot of snow.

Photo by DeAnn Long Sloan

Photo by C.J. Sloan

Photo by C.J. Sloan

It’s magical, the kids love it and the birds like the seeds I throw on it. I don’t think I’ll ever go back. We will always have a deck tree.

In many ways, we’ll never come back from 2020. Likely, we’ll always have lockdown, quarantine, maxed out hospitals and economic uncertainty in the backs of our minds. But maybe we also will carry the lessons and realize that the way we approached work and school can shift in positive ways. Businesses and education will do more virtual interaction than they used to, we’ll spend more time at home and maybe we’ll be able to appreciate what we do have in the face of what we’ve lost.

At least that’s my hope.