Every year around this time, Big Daddy and I start our annual "is this our last year with a live Christmas tree?" discussion. So far, we've stuck with the live tree tradition, mostly because of my stubborn adherence to my own family's tradition. But. I'm starting to wear down. And I think this might, in fact, be our last year with a live tree.
When I was a kid, picking out a tree was a big deal. Really big deal. Remember that scene in Christmas Vacation, when the Griswolds drive to the middle of nowhere to find the perfect Griswold Family Christmas Tree? "It's not big; it's just...full." That scene makes me cry with laughter because I lived it year after year.
We'd pile into the Mellovan on the second Saturday of advent, no matter what the weather, and we'd drive to a tree farm about 20 miles from home. For over 20 years, we went to that same tree farm (and I swear the proprietors were elderly from year one), where we'd wander the rows and rows of trees searching for the perfect Mello Family Christmas Tree. We would each put a glove on our favorite tree, and then it was up to Dad to choose the winner. He would deliberate for what seemed like hours, as we tried to stay warm or not think about how bad we had to pee. (I finally got wise by the time I was a teenager and took an extra pair of gloves, so as to avoid the frostbitten fingers.) The best part of this tradition was that every tree really did look different -- until we got it home and decorated it with our pretties and made it ours.
However, since moving out on my own, the annual Christmas Tree Search goes something like this: Drive around to area nurseries or lots, wander around looking at hundreds of trees that look pretty much the same, trying to guess which are fresh-ish and which have been lying around for weeks, kvetching about how expensive they are. We make it a night by dining (and I use the term loosely) at Pizza Hut -- the one time per year that we eat there -- and it's usually a fun evening. We found a tree lot a few years ago run by the area Lions Club, so I feel that at least a portion of the cash we shell out on the mostly dead tree is going back into the community.
This year's search was a partial bust, though, and it's led me to believe that perhaps the faux tree is the way to go. We drove to the Lions Club lot on a snowy, slushy evening, after much fanfare and excitement building for the little one...only to discover the lot was closed due to weather. So we went to the local nursery, where they were charging an exorbitant amount for great big fat trees that wouldn't fit in our room.
We ended up at Home Depot. There's something less than magical about picking out your Christmas tree at Home Depot, amidst stacks of potting soil and piles of kitschy holiday decor. In the freezing rain. With your kid running like a maniac through the puddles, hiding behind mulch bins and generally driving you crazy. And then waiting for 15 minutes for an orange-aproned associate to help you tie up the tree. Oh, and don't forget the argument with your husband in the parking lot as you both fumble with frozen, painful fingers trying to tie the damn thing to the roof. The trip to Pizza Hut was fun as we regaled Sweet Boy with our own 12 years of Christmas tree memories, but really -- we could have done that without the rest.
At the end of the evening, when Big Daddy brought the tree into the garage, approximately 3 million needles fell to the ground, indicating that this is not the freshest tree on the block. And we won't even talk about the half-strand of lights that we spent 30 minutes trying to get to light. Or the annual chasing of the cats out of the tree water, or the yelling that takes place when the clumsy little three-legged cat skitters past the tree and sends ornaments shattering across the floor. Again, not magical.
Don't get me wrong: Hours later, once we got all the ornaments and lights and garland and beads and candy canes on it, the tree is just as beautiful and special as all others. But truly, wouldn't that be the same case with a pre-lit artificial balsam fir, purchased a half-price at the end of the holiday season? I'm starting to think that maybe the magic is in the trimmings, in being together as we pull our Christmas treasures out of the attic -- not so much in the tree-picking and setting up (and endless vacuuming and watering and cat-chasing and fear of fire). Perhaps next year we'll take our tree out of a box...and then go to Pizza Hut.