Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Tree #2

Returning a Christmas tree should not be done lightly, unless you have plenty of twine, strong nerves, and talent for knots. 

We do not. We are especially lacking in twine. We nearly lost the tree in a gust of wind on the Mass. Ave. bridge. It was a blustery day. I never thought I would worry someday that my Christmas tree would plunge into the Charles. We nearly lost it again somewhere between the bridge and Central Square, even with my husband driving at a crawl, and me hanging on desperately to the jerry-rigged twine inside the car. Thank heaven for the guys at Pill's Hardware, who sold us some rope and helped us re-tie the tree to the car. Their slip-knot wasn't the best idea, but I spotted it and was able to add a few more twists and loops to make it fast. Still, it was a long, nervous drive to Lexington.

Pat at Wilson Farm couldn't have been nicer. He took us into a giant barn, where they make fruit baskets and store equipment, to see some of his favorite trees — long-needled, citrusy-smelling grand firs. We picked one, which cost twice as much as the previous tree. I can't argue that you get what you pay for in Christmas trees, because we've had great ones at all prices. But we liked this tree and we liked Pat. We were sold on it when it stood upright by itself after he let go of it. "Now that's a symmetrical tree! And it looks like it wants to follow us home." we thought.  Getting it home was blissfully uneventful, and we made a second stop for the world's best Sicilian slices at Armando's

My husband replaced our tree stand with an identical model. We have the two-piece kind with a foot pedal for swiveling and vertical adjustments. The original stand was sold to us as "The Mother of All Tree Stands" many years ago by a wise man at a hardware store. This was immediately after one of our cats knocked over our 10-foot tree, in a cheap stand, shattering many of my favorite ornaments and soaking the floor. It was a major catastrophe at the time; now I'm not sure if it still makes my list of Top Ten Traumas. But it's probably #2 on my list of Top Ten Traumas About Stuff, ranking just after Losing My Future Mother-in-Law's Diamond Engagement and Wedding Rings.

Yeah. Well. Now we always tie the tree to a wall with fishing line, too.

Decorating took me from dusk until about 11, including a cranky trip to CVS for more lights. Last Christmas, I wrote a reminder for early December 2008 in my datebook, to buy 400 to 600 white lights. Being cheap, I bought 400 a couple of weeks ago. But 600 were necessary. I also used 400 colored lights, set deeper into the branches, a trick I learned from my sister, a skilled and equally relentless tree decorator. The combination of white and color gives you the best of all possible worlds. (And I never could decide between the two anyhow.) Then I stuck our Italian angel at the top, and piled on more ornaments than even I thought possible. This morning, my husband added a few dozen plastic icicles, proving that I'm not the control freak people say I am.

In recent years, as I decorate the tree, I wonder: Why the hell do we do this? Why do we take a tree out of the forest, stick it in the house, and pile it with lights and tchotchkes until it looks like a shrine to Liberace? Is this a bizarre ritual, or what? What would anthropologists from the planet Remulac make of it? I know about the Druids, the Germans, and the Victorians, but from a clear-eyed, 2008 viewpoint, Christmas trees are completely insane. 

No wonder I love them so much.

And you can see the result: sparkly, romantic, and just a wee bit over-the-top. Let's hope Christmas is the same.

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