January 15, 2023

Falling for the Holidays

“I fell into a Christmas tree at a New Year’s Eve party.”

It’s been my response to nearly every question I’m asked. From “Do anything fun on New Year’s Eve?” to “How was your holiday?” to “Do you need more time with the menu?” It’s 100% true and I am owning every second of it. After all, I’m about new experiences, even the prickly and pokey ones.

No one sees “I fell into a Christmas tree at a New Year’s Eve party” coming. It breaks all rules for casual conversation. It demands a thoughtful response. When you tell someone that you fell into a Christmas tree at a New Year’s Eve party, there is always a pause. Sometimes, a long one. Inevitably, a question pops out. And that’s when things get interesting.

Turns out, the questions have been the second most entertaining thing about falling into a Christmas tree at a New Year’s Eve party. Sometimes they’re logical. Sometimes bizarre. And sometimes, depending on the order in which they’re asked, reveal the level of intimacy the questioner feels they have with me.

In no particular order here they are, along with their answers.  

1.) “Were you drunk?”

This question was asked by people I barely knew. It also kind of surprised me given its not-so-subtle presumption that tumbling into trees was the way I liked to party.

No, I was stone-cold sober.

2.) “Wow, what kind of party was it?”

It was a nice party. Nothing off-the-hook. If you are envisioning Animal House or Caligula’s Pleasure Palace (we’ve all got our thing), let me paint a different picture for you: classy neighborhood. Cozy midcentury home. Children playing in the yard. My friends (the hosts) told me the crowd of around 50 was 80% Mennonite. Side note: I know nothing about Mennonites or their penchant for partying.

I remember the food being spectacular: a steaming pot of earthy mushroom soup, a gooey and spicy sausage and cheese dip, and a plate of home-smoked salmon I wanted to dump into my backpack. The same backpack that broke through branches and lights and ornaments as I tumbled backward into O Tannenbaum after missing the stepdown from the foyer to the living room.    

3.) “Who did you blame it on?”

This question was asked by one person. You know who you are, and you are hilarious.  

4.) “Did the tree fall over?”

I get it. The mind wants a picture of the information it’s receiving. All anyone has to go on at this point is cat Christmas tree disaster videos on YouTube (which, I think we all can agree, are amazing).

No, the tree did not fall over. It caught me like a big baby in its piney branches, pointy lights, and sharp ornaments. There was a sound. A big one. A swoosh, a thump, and a tinkling that went on from beginning to end. It was the kind of noise that stops party guests in their tracks, freezes them in mid-bite of a cocktail wienie, and puts an end to all conversation before announcing, “Hey, everyone, look over here! Someone just fell into the Christmas tree!”

I don’t know whether I broke the artificial tree or a light or a decoration or one of the beautifully wrapped gifts my ass made a cushion out of. I don’t want to know. I do remember that the ornament I leaned in to see — a puppy in a basket peeking out from a red blanket —was still intact when I stood — er, was helped — up. Hooray for small mercies. 

5.) “Was the tree real or fake?”

Another puzzling question. I’m guessing the thinking here is that falling into a real tree might be more painful than falling into an artificial one. As someone who has fallen into only the latter, I couldn’t say. What I can tell you is that when you fall into an artificial tree you never think, “Whew, I’m glad that wasn’t a real Christmas tree.”

6.) “Are you OK?”

The answer is: yes, sort of. I mean, “except for my pride!” Ugh, I actually said that to our server at brunch the next day not believing a word of it.

“You handled that so well,” my husband told me the next day. I did not know what he meant by this. How do most people handle falling into a Christmas tree? I asked Google and the first answer to pop up was an article on Christmas tree safety from injury attorney firm Lerner & Rowe that asked the question, “Did you know that Christmas trees can also be hazardous?”

Yes. Yes, I do.

Maybe what my husband meant by “handling it well” was that I didn’t scream or leave the party or leave the party screaming. I was mostly confused about what had happened and felt that it did. After establishing that nothing was broken, sprained, or painful enough to qualify for a New Year’s Eve visit to Urgent Care, I was ready to get back to the party and mingle. I introduced myself as the woman who fell into the Christmas tree. It was a good ice breaker.

It wasn’t until we left the party that I saw the Christmas tree again. I stopped just before the door to get one last look. Nothing had been touched. Not one plastic twig had been bent back into place to fill the me-size gap I had made. No ornament picked up and rehung. No squashed gift molded back into shape. No fuss had been made at all.

It was then that I felt tremendous love and gratitude for my friends. If I had handled falling into a tree at a New Year’s Eve party – their New Year’s Eve party – then they handled it even better, simply by doing nothing. Nothing to draw more attention. Nothing to signal shock or embarrassment or distress. Not even a word to a single Mennonite or non-Mennonite guest. Good friends know when less is more.

They also know how to make you laugh. Here’s the text I received a few days later:

“Hey there – There’s good news on the tree front. He’s out of intensive care and responding to doctor’s prompts. The broken limbs have been resent and it looks like he’ll make a full recovery. After having such an intimate moment with you, Laura, he’s been asking for your number.

And then: “You wanna grab dinner next week?”

You bet my bruised ass I do.