When it comes to Christmas trees I am a mix of Clark Griswold and my Dad.
You know Clark. Chevy Chase? Christmas Vacation? Some are purists when it comes to Christmas movies: It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas. I’m a little non-traditional. Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story (You’ll shoot your eye out, kid) rank as my top two. Oddly enough, both of them remind me of Dad in both childhood and adulthood. He’ll know what I mean.
When it comes to Christmas trees, Clark has this to say:
Scene 1: Clark: The most enjoying traditions of the season are best enjoyed in the warm embrace of kith and kin. Thith tree is a thymbol of the thpirit of the Griswold family Chrithmath.
Scene 2: [Clark is about to cut the rope holding the branches of his huge Christmas tree] I give you the Griswold family Christmas tree.
[He cuts the rope, and the branches fly out, breaking windows and surrounding Clark]
Lotta sap in here! Mmmm… Looks great! Little full, lotta sap.
Scene 3: Clark: We’re kicking off our fun old fashion family Christmas by heading out into the country in the old front-wheel drive sleigh to embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select that most important of Christmas symbols.
Audrey: We’re not coming all the way out here just to get one of those stupid ties with Santa Clauses on it are we?
Clark: No, I have one of those at home.
And then there’s this classic, which has nothing to do with trees…so consider it a bonus:
Ellen: What are you looking at?
Clark: Oh, the silent majesty of a winter’s morn… the clean, cool chill of the holiday air… an asshole in his bathrobe, emptying a chemical toilet into my sewer…
[Eddie, in the driveway, is draining the RV’s toilet]
Eddie: Shitter was full.
Clark: Ah, yeah. You checked our shitters, honey?
Ellen: Clark, please. He doesn’t know any better.
Clark: He oughta know it’s illegal. That’s a storm sewer. If it fills with gas, I pity the person who lights a match within ten yards of it.
I am a real tree person. We always had real trees as a kid, many obtained after hours of driving on gravel roads in remote parts of the county. My parents continue to have real trees, as do my grandparents and my brother. Yes, they’re messy. Yes, you have to remember to water them. But, it’s Christmas. It’s supposed to be messy.
I also like my trees…well…supersized. In fact, I knew that our current house was “the house” because I knew immediately where the Christmas tree would go. We have a large formal living room with large windows on the front side of the house. The ceilings would allow for an 11 or 12 foot tree, though we’ve not quite gone that large. Actually, we may have one year, but that tree was the size of old growth and we could hardly lift it and it was so heavy it wouldn’t stand up in the tree stand and we argued and the husband whacked enough off the bottom to make it manageable, which took it down to about 9 feet.
That was a fun year.
Actually, I blame Dad for my supersize tendency. When he and Mom built their house he viewed the high ceilings and french doors in the living room as a personal challenge. As long as he could fit the tree through the doors he figured he was good to go. They have had some big trees. Big enough that Mom has occasionally complained that, on that particular year, she didn’t quite have enough ornaments to decorate the tree as fully as she would like. Fantastic.
I have yet to have that problem. Which would seem to indicate that I’ve not yet had a big enough tree. And then I remember the year of the tree fight as related above.
The husband is actually a very good sport about the tree hunt. And it is a hunt. We go to a local tree farm. A large tree farm. Which requires much wandering around. In rubber boots and, often, raincoats. To find the “perfect” tree. It must sing to me. A sweet Christmas song.
This year’s hunt was…well….wet. That’s really the only way to describe it. We knew it was going to be wet as it’s been raining for the last couple of weeks or so. Enough rain in the lowlands to cause some pretty significant flooding. Enough rain in the lowlands to dump a nice amount of snow in the mountains. Speaking of which, I was driving to work on Friday and got to see glimpses of a beautiful pink sunrise surrounding Mt. Rainier. She was all sexy and snow draped in the soft morning light. That is one attractive mountain.
Anyways, back to the tree hunt. We got to the farm around 9:30 and slogged out into the fields. There was slogging. There was sloshing through puddles. There was rain dripping off raincoats. You get the idea.
We went far and wide. Because that’s what one does at a Christmas tree farm.
Last year when we arrived at the farm we discovered that they had taken the bottom limbs of a lot of the trees. Like a number of feet of limbs off the bottom. I get what they were trying to do…some of the trees had grown too large and by taking off the bottom branches it encouraged hunters to whack the “shortened” trees down and take them home. But, it’s a bit disconcerting to have the bottom of the tree start 5 feet or so in the year. Makes it difficult to assess size.
Which is why the husband brings the tape measure.
Well, actually the husband brings the tape measure in an effort to keep me from being ridiculous and wanting to cut down a 14 foot tree.
It could fit. I’m telling you.
After slogging ’round for a bit I zeroed in on “the tree.” A Douglas Fir. I assessed. I muttered to myself. The husband announced it was over 9 feet tall and that I was limited to 8 feet. I acted like I didn’t hear him.
We stood back and assessed together. And concluded it wasn’t symmetrical. So, we kept looking.
But, there was something about that tree.
We slogged around a bit more. And returned to “the tree.” I concluded that it was “it” and the husband proceeded to cut it down and drag it back to the truck. He took enough off the bottom to get it to about 8 1/2 feet. He considered taking more, but I had a pinched look on my face, so he let it go.
The true challenge begins when the tree arrives at the house. Have much experience getting an 8-9 foot tree in a tree stand? It can be….challenging.
Last year we got the tree up with no problem. In fact, it went so smoothly that it seems like but a dream.
We got the very wet tree inside. We had to bring it in because the ceilings in the garage are not tall enough to allow the tree to stand in water, which means that rain or shine the tree must come in. I had some large cloth tarps spread on the living room floor to try to help with the moisture and needles. Now, keep in mind that we were already wet. And I was cold. And wrestling a wet tree leaves one…wetter.
And there was wrestling. We couldn’t get the tree to stay upright in the stand. I won’t walk you through the entire, exhaustive trial. Let’s just say it took a while. Let’s just say it required pulling the tree out of the stand (which the husband had to do because I wasn’t strong enough to wrastle the tree myself. Big tree) and sawing a bit more off the bottom right in the living room. That finally did the trick.
We congratulated ourselves for not sniping at each other. We stood back. The tree is definitely not symmetrical. I trimmed. Not symmetrical. Oh, well. Wrap 9 strands of lights around it (which I did Saturday evening) and throw a bunch of ornaments on it and it will be beautiful.
I headed off for a hot shower. Followed by a hot toddy. Followed by baking a myriad of delights (sugar cookies, cran-cherry pinwheel cookies, turtles, party mix) after which we settled down and watched….Christmas Vacation. Makes my holiday jolly every single time.