My mind sometimes wanders. The chemical reactions and nervous impulses that form my thoughts take a hike and leave me with the crumbs of coherence. This weekend, my mind wandered off, and left only the vapor trail of a question. The question in question was “What do families in cultures that don’t screw around with the ritual of Christmas tree decoration due to stress themselves out instead?” Maybe, they just go outdoors and play lawn dart roulette, or redecorate their streets with Molotov cocktails. This weekend marked the first of December and I wasn’t really given time to ponder the great traditions of many nations. I had a tree to decorate.
Our family had this sort of joyous opportunity to take part in the full Christmas tree experience yesterday. The idea was that we’d drive to a farm just outside of town (because the farms in town suck. The neighbors constantly complain about the smell of livestock and it’s difficult to raise anything but pigeons). Once at said farm, we’d board a magical tractor and ride around drinking cocoa until we spotted the perfect Blue Spruce. I believe the name of the farm was Handover Yourwallet. Nothing doing. I’m a practical man and practical men go to the Homer Depot for most of life’s necessities. First Aid Kit? They’re on isle 7? Christmas trees? In the garden section, along with a live assortment of weasels, raccoon and escaped pigeons from inner-city farms. The kids working in Garden at the Depot are pretty genial for spending weeks outdoors answering stupid questions (“is the squirrel extra?”). Every local high schooler has morphed into Seth Macfarlane. Some mutation along the road of modern life made every young person look and sound like the creator Family Guy. The girls at least have Carly Rae Jepsen hair styles, but on Seth Macfarlane clones it makes for a scary world.
The lone, young Seth in the Garden area assisted us with tree selection, but couldn’t finish the sale. They’re supposed to cut an inch off of the bottom of each tree, but the boy wasn’t allowed to use a saw. “I’ll go get one, they’re next to the First Aid kits.” I assured him. We sawed and trussed the tree and then I shoved it (while shrieking like a banshee) with my backside into our ancient Honda. Once home, I discovered more fun to be had while bruising my butt with this tree. Using wood shims, I centered the 8-foot beast in its stand, only to discover it leans. My dad would call this a “Detroit Lean.” He may have been talking about the Lions all those years and slurring his words. The mother-of-a-tree has a distinct tilt. You know what? It’s ours. tomorrow, or maybe in January, I’ll prop the tree up properly. For now, it’s a Thompson tree. Lazy, and crooked in a way that says “What are you looking at? Glasses are at Home Depot. Isle 9” We’ll worry about chiropractic treatment for neck injuries caused by decorating an off-kilter tree after the holidays.
Last night our family made the long anticipated trek into the forest to select the perfect Christmas tree. Well, not so much the forest. We drove over to Home Depot and wandered around the deserted garden department where the trees were unceremoniously stacked according to type and price. The only staff out in the 30 degree chill was a forlorn looking twenty-something year old clerk, sitting on a folding chair staring into space. The seagulls circled above, because no one told them to shut their beaks and find another place to paint with poo. In the end, we found a Scotch Pine that was reminiscent of our family tree (leaning over in a lazy way, not enough branches). The forlorn girl perked up and helped us load the tree into our waiting Chrysler Partsmobile. I started to perk up myself, thinking that this had gone better than holiday decorating forays when I was a kid.
When I was 11, my parents decided we needed to invest in a new tree. We were solidly fake tree Democrats in those days. Mom and Dad had me get the Sears catalog and phoned in for a respectable fake shrub. When we got to Sears receiving, the clerk brought us the wrong tree. An electrified Blue Spruce. Gorgeous, according to the package photo. When I tried to protest, dad and mom simultaneously elbowed me in the stomach. They weren’t fessing up. We owned no vehicle, and Dad knew we couldn’t put the tree on top of a cab. We ended up lugging the boxed tree onto a city bus. If it wasn’t humbling enough to put the tree on the wheelchair lift, I learned humility by having to pay an extra .50 ¢ tree fare. Embarrassing, or not, there’s no tree like the one in my folks living room (that they never paid full price for).