Like most children, when I believed in Santa Claus, I also believed in Christmas trees. I was soon disabused of the first belief, but the second took a little longer.

It wasn't until I was married, and had had to vacuum up the needles myself, that I decided on a more sophisticated, worldly, creative approach to the tree issue. It was in the midst of the environmental protests about denuding forests, and it had the advantage of pushing all the work onto my husband Richard, the sculptor.

Over the years, he made some great Christmas trees: the mobile tree for the tiny Arlington apartment; the chandelier tree of crystals from Viennese junk shops; the wood dowel tree when he at last acquired a proper shop.

This worked fine until daughter Claire reached the age of protest.

She hated creative Christmas trees. She wanted a real Christmas tree with lots of wrapped presents under it like everybody else.

So the child wants a Christmas tree, I thought. Well, something could be done. So I bought a very nice live magnolia tree, big but not too big. It was very successful, in my view. The leaves didn't fall off when we put lights on it. No one sneezed at it. And it didn't turn brown by New Year's.

Claire hated environmentally sound Christmas trees.

The next year, when she cried, we got her a traditional one.

The needles dropped all over the floor. Richard sneezed at it. By Christmas it was a fire hazard.

So the next year we decorated the six rubber trees in our front hall.

Terrific! Marvelous! Stupendous! Especially with the shocking pink Art Deco garland.

Claire hated movie-set Christmas trees.

This year, she started in early lobbying for a Real Dead Traditional Non-Artsy-Craftsy Cinematic Christmas Tree. She stomped around the house for most of Advent, threatened to withhold Christmas presents, refused to help with the other decorating, suggested swapping us for a new and better family who knew how These Things Are Done.

Yesterday, she took things into her own hands.

She's set up a real dead traditional tree, all gold balls, white lights and even tinsel, in her ground-floor apartment, as we grandiosely call the basement. We've all had to actually wrap presents and put them under the tree. True, we won't have to water it. The basement leaks.

I figure it should work out just fine to light our Christmas pizza dinner.