Sorry for the book nerd beginning, but recent events have been somewhat tree-centric.
Last night we went downtown to DC to see the National Tree out in front (way out in front) of the White House. It was very cool. Besides the National Tree, every state had one of their own, the ornaments reflecting their regional flavor. The base of the National Tree was surrounded by really excellent model trains, something I have an affinity for. I always like going to downtown DC and seeing everything lit up and all the Christmas lights made it that much better. It was a very enjoyable night.
The more important tree however, at least to us although granted probably not to the nation as a whole, is the Christmas tree we have at the house.
My mother puts together an amazing Christmas tree. Hundreds of lights. Hundreds of ornaments. When I was younger I would take of my glasses and stand in front of it. The whole tree would blur out into a solid mass of color. It was lovely.
The tree we always used was a fake one. My brother and I would haul it up from the basement, snap the segments together and then stand back and let mom get to work. It usually took her a couple of days to get everything put up.
C has always had real trees. I’ve done the real tree thing a few times myself, usually going down the street to the lot of the local Catholic School where a Boy Scout Troop has set up shop selling evergreens. That wasn’t sufficient for C, she favored going to a tree farm and cutting down a tree ourselves.
So that’s what we did.
We made several rookie mistakes.
The farm was thirty minutes from our house. C was very excited to begin with, an excitement that was elevated by the steady stream of cars heading in the opposite direction with trees strapped to their roofs. We started playing a game to see who could spot the most trees, yelling out “Christmas tree!” and keeping score. We had to stop playing because C was getting too into it. She was driving and terrifying T1 and I.
“Mom!” T1 yelled from the backseat, “Stop playing, watch the road! Watch OUR road!”
We made it to the farm alive, if just barely. It was a really pretty place located on a series of rolling hills. It was crowded, but not overwhelmingly so. This place was expertly run, which was good, because we were clueless. We parked, and the man out front gave us a map of the grounds, a saw and a length of rope, the latter two of which we hadn’t brought. Really, we didn’t bring anything, including gloves, a measuring tape or a solid idea of how high our ceilings were.
We wandered around for a bit, rejecting this tree for not being shaped correctly and that tree for having weird patches missing from it. Relatively quickly, we found one we liked and T1 started in on cutting it down.
“How tall is this thing?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” said C. “I think it will be fine.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “It will be fine.”
We tied the rope to the trunk and drug it back to the barn. Well, T1 did. The energy of a 12 year old comes in handy sometimes. The workers picked it up and measured it.
“Nine feet, eight inches,” one of them said.
We had been going for a tree about seven feet tall.
“That’s bigger than I thought,” said C.
“When they are out in the field, it’s hard to figure out how tall they are,” I said.
“We should have brought a tape measure,” C said. “I think it will be fine.”
“Yeah,” I agreed, “it will be fine.
They put the tree into this awesome baling machine that wrapped the whole thing up tight in about thirty seconds, loaded it on the front of a back hoe, and delivered it all the way to our car. T1 and I used around three miles of twine securing it to the roof. Neither of us are sailors and our knots were hit or miss. Additionally, I don’t think either of us had every tied anything to a car roof. The whole exercise was fraught with peril. I had visions of it flying off the back of the car halfway home.
“Is this thing going to come whizzing off of here and start bouncing through traffic?” I asked.
“Well,” said C, “you guys used a lot of string. Like…a lot. I think it will be fine.”
“Yeah,” I said, “it will be fine.”
We made it home, our deciduous cargo staying where it was supposed to be. We cut it free. This was weeks ago and there is still bits of orange string stuck to the top of C’s car.
We carried it in the front door, up the stairs, and then stood it up straight in the family room. The top of the tree drug against the ceiling and bent over itself. Fairly significantly.
“That…that looks a little big to me,” I said.
“Yeah,” agreed C. “We should probably cut some off the bottom.”
“That or have the ceiling raised about two feet.”
“It will be fine,” she said.
“Yeah,” I agreed,” it will be fine.”
We got a saw from one of the neighbors and I cut a big section off of the bottom of the tree. C fretted that my hatchet job was going to ruin it, but it turned out really nicely. We set it back up in the stand and it fit perfectly. Well, sort of. The tip of the tree was just inches away from our ceiling, making it impossible to top it with a star. It looked great though, really well formed.
We spent what seemed like two weeks but was probably more like twenty minutes (not a whole lot better, really) getting the damned thing straight in the stand. It was like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded while lying on your back as someone hits you in the head with a broom, but eventually the fucking thing was straight. Straight-ish, anyway. Then we strung lights and decorated it, with everyone taking a turn finding an ornament and deciding where to put it.
It was more hassle than my old artificial trees but the end result was just fantastic. Maybe not as elaborate as my mom’s tree, but it was ours and it was fine.
It was more than fine.