Did I test it first? No. Did I spray a little and find out what it really smelled like? No. What I did was wrest off the cap and spray around me with a will, like I was trying to put out a garage fire, until this -- this -- this odor hit me smack in the face like a shovel in a cartoon. It was a bizarre topnote of acrid pine cleaner with a sickly undertone of baby powder, the industrial-strength deodorant kind of smell that is eternally, absolutely and unchangeably linked with fetid bathrooms in public places. I gagged and began flapping my arms wildly at the air, but it was too late. The side of the can boasted that the ineffable fragrance would last for hours.
After throwing all the doors and windows open, I retreated to the front porch to contemplate the disaster. Surprise, hubby! Surprise, kiddo! Isn't it beautiful? Here's your gas masks! Aw, baby, don't cry, Christmas trees are supposed to smell bad! That's why we have them only once a year! The horror was beyond description -- spending December with a fake tree that smelled like a highway rest stop. But eventually I figured out what to do.
I cooked stuffed cabbage that night, of course. One of my mom's treasured holiday recipes. And by the end of that festive dinner, nobody cared what the tree smelled like.
by Catherine Salton