The Great Christmas Tree Crash of 2014 (The One-Horned Medicine Man’s Medicine Is Good).


One December night maybe six or seven years ago, we vaguely heard a thud in the front of our flat whilst we slept. I don’t remember it all that well, truth be told, so maybe my subconscious managed to weave the real-world sound into whatever I was dreaming about that night. Could’ve been the muffled slam of my high school locker door, for example. The one for which I can never remember the combination, as I struggle in a frenzied panic to loose a text book critical to the Calculus final exam I am missing while I fiddle with the numbered dial. That might have been the one.

The relief I would feel upon waking up and realizing I didn’t really need the locker combo after all? (And please, Late-for-Calculus-Final-Exam Dream, release me from your grip.) That morning, the relief was replaced with dread as we discovered our over-sized Christmas tree (do I have the capitalization scheme right on this?) had toppled over in the night. Smashing to smithereens a number of ornaments we had slowly gathered thusfar during our early years together, my wife and I.

The facade of the Heritage House, a great little bed and breakfast in Mendocino to which we’d escaped one weekend early in Hilary’s first pregnancy for our now-teenager. (Yes I know I am not using one of those little sickle marks on the c in “facade.” I took French. But I can’t find the mark as a choice on my iPhone keypad.). Broken into 3 pieces, the bright red front door split from the yellow trimmed windows.

A medicine man of some sort. Green face, black and white striped horns, yellow teeth, bulging eyes circled in black eye liner. Maybe wearing pants made of buffalo hide or something. A little terrifying, actually. Think we picked him up in Sedona or Sante Fe on our move out here from the east coast in 1999. I’d guess he is supposed to be some sort of ceremonial figure. Probably my favorite tree decoration. Well, he survived the trip west unscathed, but lost a horn on our carpet, thrown down unceremoniously by our own strange ceremony involving a chopped down pine tree propped up in our living room for a month.

Well, last week it happened again.

No more than 30 seconds after I snapped the above photo of the newly-clamped and ornament-strung tree next to our fireplace, that bad boy came down.

Moments earlier, the five of us (including our dog) were, for once, actually quiet. The boys were drawing up their (ridiculous) Christmas wish lists. I was engrossed in the final pages of a book about exploring the ocean’s depths. Hilary was maybe catching up on emails. The dog was lying at my side, tongue lolling out, probably fantasizing about licking our dinner plates clean once we’d all gone to bed. The fire crackled.

Suddenly, Hilary let out a primal scream. As I jolted my head up, the tree began to fall in slow motion, the dog bolted upright and got the hell out of Dodge, and our youngest was suddenly under the 8-foot tree.

Me: “Everett, are you OK in there?”

Everett (presumably still clutching his pen, scribbling madly to ensure every possible aspiration is included on his list, possibly not even noticing the tree covering his upper torso): “Yep.”

The only damage, really, was the thin (too-thin) glass ornament we’d picked up at Zion National Park last spring. That was a once-in-a-lifetime trip filled with memories we’ll be reliving for years, likely even years after the actual participants are long gone. That hand-painted orb was fairly shattered, its sharp pieces set delicately on our dining room table even now, nearly a week later. As if we’re mourning the ornament.

The Heritage House also broke again, along the same fractures as last time, apparently not glued together as well as we thought. I think I can fix this one, though. Hopefully without Crazy-Gluing my thumb and forefinger together.

And the Sante Fe Medicine Man?

Where is he? Where is he? I may even have said those words aloud as I combed through the debris. His medicine must be good. Somehow, he survived this calamity without a scratch. He still only has the one horn, but his medicine is good.

Until the next time.

Thanks for reading.


  1. We put a tree on our front porch that likes to fall over. I actually believe it enjoys being prone. Thankfully the big one in the living room stays upright, not that the dogs haven’t given it plenty of reason to fall over.

  2. Have you ever considered a smaller tree 🙂 Years ago our cats used to climb inside the branches of ours – stayed upright every time.

  3. I hope your kid is alright! I bet he will never forget this year’s christmas season lol. I have to say I laughed out loud during that part. Totally wasn’t expecting it. Thanks for sharing =)

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