Christmas is a time of so many mixed emotions. We’re excited and exhausted. We’re full of joy of the season and nostalgia which brings both tears and laughter. It is also a season of extremes. We spend more of our energy, our money and our time than we ever plan. Let’s lighten up and forget our stress, fatigue and all those things we have left to do and just sit back and enjoy…I hope to bring a smile to your face while you relax.
OH, CHRISTMAS TREE, OH, CHRISTMAS TREE
One particular year, long ago when we still lived in California before coming to Oregon stands out in my mind. It was an event that wasn’t at all humorous at the time it was happening but somehow I knew, somewhere deep inside, “This will be funny someday.”
It has become more precious over the years, in a somewhat perverse way, much like watching a horror flick on TV but being unable to look away or change the channel. It was time for our annual trek to the Christmas tree farm to choose our tree. That particular year, since Jim no longer owned a truck, we had the choice of transporting and hauling the tree on a brand-new car, my husband’s, which was out of the question if one valued their life or my little blue Mustang convertible. Naturally, we both opted for my convertible. Only in California is it fairly common to see someone fetch a Christmas tree in a convertible. Many things can be said about it and I guess the word “festive” would be that word.
On arriving at the tree farm, we were handed the yuletide measuring pole used for measuring the height of the tree wechose. The trees were beautiful as always as their sap filled the air conjuring memories from Christmases past. I asked the owner, a sweet, elderly woman, “What if the pole isn’t as tall as the tree we choose?”She replied, “Oh my dear, that won’t happen. That pole is twelve feet tall.”Poor thing, little did she know she was speaking to the Paul Bunyan of all Christmas tree buyers. I couldn’t help it. I used to simply lose it at Christmas time. I have changed since then but at that time in my life, I became addict like, seeking the largest tree on the lot. Jim, who knew that about me treated me with tolerance and firmness. He knew he couldn’t win. Trudging through the boggy furrows of the farm, we eventually came to the back row of trees. This was to fulfill the old Christmas tree adage, “One always chooses the Christmas tree located the farthest from one’s vehicle.”
As we were seeking our tree for the year, Jim uttered a remark I had never heard him say nor have I since. He said, “No, that one is too small.” I couldn’t believe it but thought it was a good sign. We finally settled on a lovely, majestic Monterey pine which stood as tall as the twelve-foot pole. Once again, I uttered a word of thanks that we had an old Victorian with twelve-fourteen foot ceilings throughout the house. Jim went to fetch the saw while I stood guard lest some other tall tree zealot, strike that, nut job, came along and wanted my tree.
Felling the tree always gives one a sense of wastefulness but thankfully, for me that feeling never lasted very long. Could we go to a tree farm where they had a tractor, an electric cart or better yet a sleigh and eight reindeer? Oh no, not us. We two were on our own dragging a 150 pound tree to my convertible.
The elderly proprietor now accompanied by her gray-haired husband asked us how tall our tree was. Jim replied, “Oh, she had to have one of those giant “Sequoia’s” in the back row.”
After paying for our now beloved tree we hauled it to the convertible. As you can imagine a twelve-foot tree totally fills a top down convertible, the tree looking for all intents and purposes like the owner of the car as Jim looked like the chauffer. The trunk of the tree sat next to Jim in the passenger seat while I, the guilty party who had to have this particular tree was squished into a six-inch space beside 500 wet yet wonderfully fragrant branches. At that time in my life I did not have a six-inch sitter, therefore it made for an interesting ride but, having read the expression on my husband’s face, I did not complain…keeping in the spirit of Christmas and self-preservation, etc.
After arriving at our old Queen Anne home, we proceeded to drag it up the porch stairs and squeezed it through the doorway. We placed the tree stand on the trunk of the pine and proceeded to erect our majestic, wonderfully sappy tree. Of course, another age-old yuletide custom came alive as the huge tree began to lean. That year, having been through this “custom” before, I was prepared. I had wire, wall hooks, hammer, saw and nails all at the ready, just in case. We carefully wired the odiferous and sticky tree to the wall with not just one but three pieces of wire. That baby wasn’t going anywhere. How very little we knew. We stood back to survey our work. It was perfect. I then proceeded to pour a gallon of water into the stand lest the pour tree stump dried over before the giant could drink.
Relieved beyond words, my negative husband went downstairs to utter expletives to himself and to make a sandwich. I, more charged than ever, began to pull out Christmas lights, ornaments and garland. Then something strange began to happen. Our tall, perfectly stable, wired giant tree began to lean precariously and dangerously toward the window in the living room. “Oh, Honey, I think you’d better come up here,” I said. “Don’t tell me,” he said from the kitchen below.
Believe me, I wouldn’t have told him if I had any other way to go at that particular moment. He came up, sandwich in hand, wolfing it down like a man fearing it would be his last meal, ever and removed the wires. We cajoled and rotated the 150-pound tree, recalcitrant and heavy as it was. It didn’t seem to matter what we did or what position it was in the tree did would not stand without leaning. Despite our best efforts, gravity won every time.
“That’s it!” Jim shouted. “This is the last year we have a Christmas tree. No, I mean it, you mark my words. This is it.”“Now, Jim, don’t say something you’re going to regret. I’m sure we can work this out,” I said.I’m one of those people, if I had been aboard the Titanic would have said with my last moist, gurgling breath, “The Coast Guard will arrive right away, I know it will.”My husband is the type of individual who would have said were he onboard, “With my luck this ship will go down during a steak dinner.”
Our best efforts continued to be futile. Jim stood there surveying the tree, without a shred of Christmas spirit, “Well, I think we should haul this thing out onto the front yard, douse it with gasoline and set it on fire.” “Now, Jim. Don’t be ridiculous,” I said.“Ridiculous is what we’re doing. No, I’m absolutely serious. If we get a tree at all next year it will be an artificial one from Sears.”To this I replied, “Not while I’m alive.” This I said, to a large man with very sharp saw in his hands. Okay, so I am a foolishly brave woman. “Don’t tempt me,” said he.
“Jim, we have to do something. I’m not going to let you burn this beautiful tree. How about if we cut some more off of the bottom?” I said. “Okay,” he said. “We’ll try it but if that doesn’t work…out she goes. Okay, Sue, get the water out of there.” Note: the tree had become a “she. “Me,” I reply. “Why not you?” If looks could kill I’d have been one dead optimist. “I don’t know how to get it out of the tree stand. What do you want me to do, suck it out?” There it was again. At best, that look from him had Divorce Court written all over it. Is Divorce Court still on television? “Okay, I know what we’ll do,” I said. “I’ll get a couple of blankets, put them around it to soak up all the water and you tip it over.” Jim rolled his eyes toward heaven, obviously seeking Divine help. He said, “Okay, I think it’s a stupid idea but we’ll try it.”
I placed two large blankets next to the tree and he dumped out the water. My one gallon of water, which then looked like five gallons, began to flow out…but in the opposite direction of the blankets. Chasing the water, I picked up the blankets and threw them at the water flow. Losing my Christmas spirit, the room was now filled with a massive tree, flowing water and two angry, cheerless human beings.
While looking totally disgusted, Jim asked me, “Isn’t that one the electric blanket? “I replied, “Sure it is. I thought I’d get it nice and saturated then ask you to hold it while I plugged it in!” Of course, it wasn’t the electric blanket, only a look-alike. Our daughter entered the room at that point, assessed the situation and said, “Hey, I’m out of here.” I knew she was a smart girl. Then the magic of Christmas came to our rescue. We, or rather he, sawed about four inches off the bottom of that huge tree, we stood it in the stand and magically, it stayed. We placed one wire on it to keep the dog or cat from toppling it. We had a Saint Bernard in those days and it was a genuine concern. We had a wonderful Christmas that year and every year since then.
We, like many of you have evolved into smaller trees, and often an artificial one as part of our bodies became troublesome. Of course, we all grow wiser and realize the joys of Christmas are outwardly displayed in trees, décor, presents and a brightly lit home but the true spirit of Christmas lies within. May your within spirit match your outward spirit this year as you think back on Christmases past, loved ones gone, loved ones still present and the joys that never die. The older I grow, the more I understand why older relatives were always talking about the past. Both Jim and I have had family members and friends taken from us in recent years yet the memories of loved ones are strong and true. They are kept like rare collectibles and are especially enjoyed and revisited during this sacred season. May each of you enjoy, relish and savor your Holy days, whatever you choose to celebrate in the spirit of love and thankfulness. Asfor us we are thankful for the greatest gift ever given from God, His beloved Son in the form of the beloved Christ child who became a man who died to cleanse us so we can have eternal life. Blessed Christmas to each of you my friends.