Thursday, December 06, 2007

Oh. Christmas tree.

The house isn't done with Christmas until the tree is up and decorated.

Today I'd like to take you back in time to my childhood.

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. North of Seattle. You know where Canada and the United States meet at the Pacific Ocean? Right there.

Every year we, as a family would bundle up in our waterproof parkas, pick up the saw from the garage and load into the station wagon. We would drive to Fullner's Christmas Tree farm. Out towards my grandparent's house, then a bit further. Towards Mount Baker, over the Nooksack river, turn left onto the Lawrence pavement, past the church where my parents got married, to the curve in the road where instead of following the road, you turn right, pause for the railroad tracks then continue to Fullner's Tree Farm (see this link for map that shows it just how I remembered).

On the drive out the discussion was always the same.
Can we have a really BIG tree this year?
What about a really TALL tree this year?
What if its not too tall, but really big AROUND?
"NO! God Dammit! You can only get a tree as tall as your mother. Once the stand is on it gets taller and you'll break the tree topper!"
(which did finally happen one year which validated everything my father had always warned us with a "See? I told you so!")
And then I'd sulk.

Once we got to the tree farm we'd see that the prices hadn't changed since last year:
under 6 feet - $8.
Over 6 feet - $10.

I remember there was a lot of grumbling the year that over 6 feet went to $12. We always seemed to get an over 6 foot tree. My mother by the way is not 6 feet tall.

Because it was the Northwest if it wasn't raining when we went to get the tree then it had just stopped or was about to start. Either way you needed your big rubber boots to wade through the muck.

We pull up, the family pours out of the car. My dad, mother, brother, sister and me. Everyone files out into the field of trees in an orderly fashion. The type of tree we like is towards the back. Everyone except me. I begin to zig and zag through every tree no matter what size, shape, color or condition.
How about this one?
Can I have one for my room?

Look at this one!

This one needs a home!

Can I have a bigger one for my room?

Can I have one if it's smaller?

This one is perfect!

No, this one!
Over here!
But no one is near me. They are still walking with a purpose towards the area with the right type of tree in the right size category.

I'd make my way back to the family. Annoyed that no one listened to me or cared which tree I liked I'd start to cry. Seriously, every single year.

Then my dad would yell at me to stop crying and I would run away to find a better tree than any of them would ever choose. I'd show them all. Except they wouldn't come look. Seriously, every single year.

Finally all the family (except me) would have it narrowed down to 4 trees. My mother would have left Kleenex tissues on each one so we'd remember which ones they were. Then I would walk around and around and around them picking them apart.
There's a hole on this side
"Put it against the wall."
It's got two branches right at the top.
"We'll cut one off."
The branches go right to the ground, it won't fit in the base.
"We'll cut them off."
There won't be any tree left!
and off I'd go on another crying jag. Seriously, every single year.

So against my will we'd pick a tree and then came the sawing of the tree. I'd start to feel guilty that we were killing this poor innocent tree but excited that we were finally getting a tree, then angry that it wasn't the tree I picked out, then thrilled that Christmas was really happening, then sad because soon it would all be over and all that would be left to look forward to was the bleak dreary blah gray skies of winter rain.

My dad would tire from sawing and then my brother would step in. Then he would tire and I would take a turn. We really should have brought a better saw but this was the "tree saw" that hung in the back of the garage all year long just waiting to go and get covered in pine pitch then get hung back on the wall rusting in crud until the next year when we'd need it again.

Finally! The tree toppled over and my dad and my mother would each grab an end and we'd make our way back to the car. As we walked past every tree we hadn't taken I would make a mental note of how much better each of them looked to me and know that it was now too late to change our plans as we'd already cut this one down. My mother would ask my sister to collect the Kleenex off the trees we hadn't chosen so we wouldn't be litterbugs.

Then the tree was measured, oops, over 6 feet again! "God dammit, I told you this one was too big!" And we'd wrap it in an old sheet we'd brought and stuff in the back of the station wagon with the back window down for it to stick out and drive it home.

Once it got home and decorated you could never find that hole (placed against the wall for concealment) and the extra branch at the top would be cut off with a dull steak knife (why didn't we ever have anything sharp?), and the bottom branches would be cut off to make room for the stand (I'd take the branches and try to lash them together into a sad Charlie Brown tree for my room which would dry out in a few days, turn brown and all the needles would fall off which inevitably led me to cry all over again). But it was good that those bottom branches were gone because that left more room for all this presents under the tree.

All this is shared to explain away why shopping for a Christmas tree is not a simple task for me. Lyle and I went out today and went to two tree lots. Prices ranged from $120 to $350. Yes, we are looking at getting something over 6 feet.

Last year after we'd finally got our tree and I had finished crying I begged Lyle to go by himself this year. But I just can't seem to let him. Today in the tree lot we had to leave quickly. I was just about to cry. Its never just a tree for me.

My favorite tree ever was the one that grew wider and wider and took over the archway entrance between the dining room and living room. That tree had to be cut up inside the house to get it out the front door.
Me, my sister and brother, I'm about a year or two from the beginning of my tree crying expeditions.

To my father, mother, brother and sister - thanks for putting up with me I know I was not easy. But you must admit that through my keen future gay artistic eye, we always had the best tree. At least that's the way I see it.


deb said...

As if it happened yesterday. I think this is why we put up a tree out of box stored in our attic - we actually have 2. No one believes me that there really is a road called the Lawrence Pavement. I could drive there in my sleep.
Love, Deb

The T-Dude said...

Over trees? Wow. I used to watch my father cry at the opera, I've watched my wife tear up at the art museum, at animal movies or books when the kid's dog/horse/woodland creature dies, I'm a mess. But trees?

Carolyn said...

Oh my gosh! That is the best story I've ever heard about a Christmas tree. My husband (the t-dude) is an idiot if he can't understand why you cried...a lot. You were frustrated that no one was listening to you. The tree is just a physical manifestation of that frustration, which is why you still agonize and cry over the tree. (That and the price tag. $350 for a Christmas tree? Yikes!)I get it, though. I'm the youngest too.
I think this year when we go and get our tree I am going to burst into tears and when the t-dude asks me why I will sob, "Because of Jim! I feel his pain!"