Monday, December 5, 2011

Oh....Christmas Tree

I am not someone who jumps out of bed the morning after Thanksgiving and starts madly decorating our home for Christmas. Since I am always the one who hosts Thanksgiving at our house I am usually the one moaning the morning after about how exhausted I am and the thought of launching into the next holiday is unfathomable. As a result, we usually delay our Christmas decorating for a week. Or more.

We are a family that still insists upon getting a real Christmas tree. When the children were younger and our tolerance for activities that involved driving far distances and cutting things was low we got our tree from the lot down the street. These were always lovely trees with plenty to choose from in the perfect height and they tied it to the roof of our van with twine so we could drive it home. The whole process took less than 30 minutes including the time it took for me to dither over which of the perfect trees was truly the most perfect-est.

Last year I decided our children were old enough and our tolerances were high enough that we were going to drive out to a Christmas tree farm and cut our own. How festive! What a family bonding experience! When we told the kids they were excited. My daughter immediately got busy finding the appropriate outfit for the occasion which consisted of a skirt and blouse, tights, black patent shoes and her faux leopard coat and hat. The rest of us felt woefully underdressed in our jeans, sweaters, parkas and boots.

We drove out to the farm and while it did take longer than our usual drive to the local lot it didn't take days to get there. Or even hours. If I recall correctly, the drive took one hour. And yet our children complained bitterly, like we had been driving since before the sun came up. For several days on end. They demanded snacks and a video. I told them we are never driving across country. Or even to New York.

Once we got to the farm we sprang from the car and took big, deep breaths of the cool, crisp pine air. There was a fire pit and a rack of hand saws. My children immediately made a beeline for the saws. Once we sorted out who was allowed to use the saws (only daddy) and who would be carrying the bamboo measuring pole (them, taking turns) we started out in search of our tree.

As I mentioned previously, we do not come rushing out of the starting gate with our decorating the day of Thanksgiving. We kind of take a few weeks to warm up to the idea and get comfortable with the fact that it is already December. As a result, when we went to the farm to get our tree we were a little on the late side. At the lot back home that isn't a problem because they keep bringing new trees to replace the stock. At the farm, once a tree has been cut down it's gone, so you have to keep walking until you find one suitable. And walking. And walking. With your children who are complaining about the cold, dressed in faux leopard coats and black patent shoes, trying to beat each other with a bamboo pole and whining that they want to carry the saw.

Finally, after much searching we found the perfect tree. Well, almost perfect. There was a sketchy side but it could face the wall and would be fine. And we were tired and hungry and cold. So the husband got to work cutting it.

A few years ago we moved to a new house with higher ceilings. Much higher ceilings. And yet we had continued to buy a tree that fit our old house's lower ceilings. But not this year! We had measured and knew exactly what size larger tree we needed. What we didn't take into consideration was this much larger tree would have a much larger trunk. And so the husband laid on the ground with the small, dull, only slightly-sharper-than-a-plastic-knife, farm provided hand saw and sawed away at the large trunk. And sawed. And sawed. And got tired and so I sawed a bit. And then we got desperate and let each kid saw for a while. And finally it was almost cut loose and I misunderstood the husband's directions for holding the tree at the correct angle and when he finally cut it through completely it fell on him.

Once he crawled out from under the tree we realized we had to drag the massive tree a million miles back through the tree farm to the parking lot. It was big. And heavy. So we began the process of getting it back to the car. We had to stop a few times to peel off layers of clothing and catch our breath. And our children continued to straggle behind beating each other with the bamboo pole and swinging the saw at each other because by this point we had lost the will to care. But eventually we got the tree back, sat by the fire pit for a few minutes and drank hot cider, paid for the tree and the attendant tied it to the roof of our car and we drove home with our glorious tree.

Once we got home we cut it down from the roof of the car and dragged it inside. We got out our Christmas tree stand that we had been using for many years. It was the fancy kind from Brookstone that practically puts the tree up itself. Or at least it would've if it had been the sized tree we had gotten in all those previous years. Not the new massive one. With the massive trunk that didn't fit in our stand.

The husband was so overcome with the spirit of the holidays that he ran out to get a new stand that would fit our tree. Okay, actually he was nagged until he ran away, and it just so happened he ran off in the direction of the store. Which was out of the larger sized stands. At this point he was done for the time being. So the tree sat outside, leaning against the house in the back yard until the next weekend when we had recovered our Christmas spirit and banished our apathy and found the right sized stand after checking two more stores.

Finally we had the tree up, the sketchy side was facing the wall, we added lights and ornaments, and it was everything we thought it would be and more. And because of that lovely experience that has been transformed in my children's minds into the best Christmas tradition ever, I am now looking forward to a repeat of the whole event this coming weekend. But at least this time we already have the stand. And we are bringing our own chain saw.