I was about 12. Mom was really into theme trees, and she had amassed a huge collection of seashells, from all those years of walking along the beach while my father wade-fished. Dad drilled some holes, she strung monofilament -- ornaments.
As we decorated the tree, Dad -- grinchlike, sitting in his chair watching us -- said to my mother, "Those ornaments are heavy. You need to put more on the back or you're going to have a big mess."
She ignored him.
We finished decorating the tree and stood back to admire it. It really was beautiful.
Mom went back to her bedroom to change clothes and the rest of us watched the game.
Suddenly, as if in slow motion ... creeeeeeeak ... down came the tree.
Dad jumped to his feet and began waving us away from it. "Don't touch anything," he hissed. "Leave it for your mother to see."
Well she did, and there was the hubub of putting it back up. Not too many sand dollars crushed.
To keep that from happening again, my mom hung coffee mugs all over the back of the tree. I can still see them, hanging there, like some kind of a twisted coffee-lover's tree.