A Tree Grows in Durham
Meticulous research has shown me that there are two kinds of people in this world: (1) those who like the predictability and practicality of an artificial Christmas tree, and (2) insane people.
For 19 years, my beloved bride has hinted that maybe we should get a real tree. That maybe we’re not a true American family if we don’t have a real tree. That maybe Al Gore is just kidding and cutting down a real tree doesn’t actually cause a puppy to go blind.
And for 19 years, I’ve deftly avoided being drawn into those hints. For 19 years, I’ve put up our massive behemoth plastic tree, the one that is already pre-woven with lights that we lovingly pre-wove one year, and then cursingly re-wove every year after that, because one of the stupid strands burned out.
But this year, her hints turned into very strong suggestions, to the point that I felt threatened by her hints, if you get my domestic altercation drift.
And so it was that on Black Friday we set out like the pioneers of yore, trudging into the wilderness on an odyssey (or IN an Odyssey…did you see what I did there) for the perfect tree. Thankfully, we found the perfect tree after searching high and Lowe’s (wow, the hits just keep on coming), and as we gazed at it in astounded wonder, asked ourselves the age old question,
“How in the blazes do we move this stupid thing?”
You see, it brought me great joy to see the joy my wife had over her real tree. As a matter of fact, I encouraged her to go big before we go home and upsize that sucker. For only twenty more bucks we could have two more feet of tree and – the way I calculated – a few more strands of lights to fight over.
So we got the eight footer. I hauled it out of the bin to stand it up and bounce it on the ground to see if any needles fell off, just like my forebears taught me to in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The only problem: eight foot trees don’t bounce. And neither do they stand up easily when you’re trying to get your 5’2″ wife to hold it so you can take her picture.
Me: Look, it’s standing up! All you have to do is hang on to it.
Merriem: I can’t hang on to it! It’s going to tip over.
Me: HANG ON LET ME SWITCH TO VIDEO MODE!
Then it was time to move Mr. Tannenbaum to the trimming stand, where two helpful men look and you and grin while you try to maneuver an eight foot tree onto the trimming stand. They then ask you how much you want taken off, which is the Christmas Tree Stand equivalent to my mechanic asking what weight oil I want to use. (Answer: “Um…a couple of pounds?”)
So they trimmed a bit off the trunk, and then put the same netting around the tree that I had just removed from the Thanksgiving turkey the day before. Then one of the guys helped me strap the tree to the top of the van, all the while telling me how we were making memories with our kids, and they would never forget these moments, and this would be the kind of thing that they would tell their kids about. Except I was having a hard time agreeing with him, because at that moment our kids were sitting at home playing their WiiBoxStation or whatever they have, because they weren’t all that interested in picking out the thing that would serve as the foundation for their generational memories.
Back to the house, where my in laws were waiting to (a) help put up the tree and (b) serve as witnesses in case of a future court deposition. And for two more days, we wrapped that rascal in lights and ribbon and ornaments and vile hatred and broken dreams, because let’s face it: that’s what Christmas lights do to you. Merriem and I know we can count on one major fight per year, and that will be the Christmas Light Fight. (“Just toss me that strand.” “Which strand?” “That strand.” “I NO LONGER RESPECT YOU AS A HUMAN!”)
But as of this morning when I left the house, amidst the living room floor shrapnel known as falling pine needles, we have a beautiful, pine scented, joyously festive Christmas tree that has brought our family together and helped us look forward to the season. At least until it crashes to the ground because one of the kids bumped into it.
I hope I have the camera in video mode.
Just keep looking at that picture of Merriem’s smiling face and watch the bitterness ooze out of your pores.