I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I love my ShopVac.

Typically, my love affair with this handy appliance is most intimate during the post-holiday cleanup, after the decorations have been taken down and a veritable minefield of dust bunnies, paper scraps, glitter, forgotten red and green M&Ms and, of course, pine needles is revealed.

I normally find my ShopVac coyly hiding in my laundry room, playing hard-to-get. I tease it out into the kitchen and fondle its attachments. It’s a particularly handsome, upright model with a tall slim canister and an extra long hose. After I plug it in, it dominantly takes charge of the situation, powerfully wielding its raw horsepower.

My torrid tryst with my ShopVac is normally a very brief encounter. But this year, we had a prolonged tête-à-tête, thanks to a most unfortunate Christmas tree.

After two years of living in Florida, buying our Christmas trees in dingy strip mall parking lots, my Navy Family, now stationed in New England, was ready for the full-on, over the river and through the woods, dashing through the snow, holly-jolly experience. I imagined a happy Family outing to a local “you-cut” tree farm with rows of lovely Scotch pines and Frazier firs. I figured we’d traipse off into the woods, perhaps while singing our favorite Christmas carols, and find a gorgeously fragrant, well-tended tree to perfectly fit our base house’s bay window.

However, somehow, we ended up in a bumpy field dotted with wildly misshapen blue spruces. But it was almost dusk, and we were determined to get our tree that afternoon. As we searched the weedy, tangled grove, our standards dwindled with the remaining sunlight.

Wanting to get the whole ordeal over with, we settled on a particularly painful blue spruce that we found down in a gulch at the edge of the farmer’s property. No sooner did we hand back the farmer’s bowsaw, along with the agreed upon $35, than needles began to fall from our “fresh” cut tree.

There were needles on our clothes, on the top of our minivan, inside our minivan, on our driveway, on our sidewalk, in our kitchen, down our hallway, across our living room, and scattered on the floor under the bay window. Even after the lights, ornaments and angel were in place, our “fresh” cut tree continued to drop needles, which somehow made their way onto our dog, inside our presents, in our boots, on the bookshelf, imbedded into our oriental rug, and remarkably, into a pot of spaghetti sauce.

By the time the holidays were over, and we took the decorations off our tree, there were more needles on our carpet than attached to the brittle, curled branches.

We finally bid riddance to that most unfortunate tree at the curb outside our house a few days ago. Not wanting to appear too needy, I wondered whether I should betray my ShopVac, and tackle the mountain of needles with a snow shovel or a bulldozer.

But I was only kidding myself - I knew it was the only one who could give me satisfaction. Day after day, night after night, I faithfully rendezvoused with my beloved ShopVac until we found every needle in my haystack.

Along with all those fuzz balls, dog hairs, peanuts, tinsel and pine needles, my ShopVac has sucked me in for good.

(Editor’s note: Lisa Smith Molinari is a 20-year Navy spouse. She can be reached at www.themeatandpotatoesoflife.com)