Dear Olivia: Week 21

Olivia-week21-webDear Olivia,

This weekend we put up our Christmas tree. If you think that sounds like a simple endeavor, I’m sorry to say that you are very wrong.

It should have been simple. Our tree was (please note the past tense) a basic plastic affair of a modest size with branches that you fold out and fluff up to make it look more realistic (Christmas tree manufacturers, who, exactly, do you think you’re fooling with these things?). Pop together. Unfold. Hang lights. Bask in the glow of holiday cheer. Done and done.


The problem really started about five years ago. Our cats, then as now, were jerks that liked to chew on the lower branches of the tree. We bought some bitter apple spray that’s marketed as a chewing deterrent for pets and said NOT TODAY, CATS.

We DOUSED that tree. They chewed, we sprayed. They chewed some more, we sprayed some more. Until we came to the horrifying realization that not only did the bitter apple spray have basically no effect on our cats, but also that you could taste it if you got too close to the tree.

We packed the tree away after Christmas and gratefully said goodbye to the intoxicating smell of fake pine needles and bitter apple spray.

Until the following year when we opened up the Christmas tree box and FOOF out wafted a cloud of that vile spray, coating our hands, faces, clothing, and furniture. If you weren’t careful about washing your hands after touching the tree, you were in for a pleasant surprise when you popped that next Christmas cookie in your mouth.


This happened every year. And every year the cats sat smugly on the tree skirt, gnawing on the branches while maintaining direct eye contact with us. What’re you gonna do about it, punk? You’re going to touch the tree to stop me? I DON’T THINK SO NOM NOM NOM.

Surely the potency would fade from year to year, we’d say.

Nope. Nope nope nope.

Every year, every single year it was like this. Until this year, when I found myself gingerly handling the branches with kitchen gloves and trying not to breathe as I fluffed them up and said ENOUGH LET’S GO TO TARGET WE NEED A NEW TREE.

So we did. And wouldn’t you know, fake trees have improved exponentially in the last five years. If you squint and hang some pine-scented sticks on it, it’s very close to passing for a real one.

But the best part is that I can now stand in front of our tree, our beautiful, beautiful tree, with you in my arms and not have to worry about either one of us breathing in toxic bitter apple fumes.

Or, the more likely scenario, your sister making herself sick from licking the ornaments.

This is just the beginning of a beautiful Christmas season, sweet girl.

We’re so glad you’re here to enjoy it with us.

Love always,

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