‘Tis the season to participate in one of the most sacred traditions of this joyous season of giving; the one in which families brave the snow, freezing rain and other deadly water-based winter elements, load into a vintage Volvo with the muffler held on by wire coat hangars, drive to the local Christmas Tree Lot, price haggle with a contentious off-season Carny, tie the carcass of a Douglas fir to the roof of their car then drive back home at 20mph for fear that a sudden or abrupt stop would send the tree crashing through the back window of a Toyota Prius.
On Sunday at high noon we suddenly realized we only had about a 90 minute window to partake in this Yule Tide ritual before Kathleen had to go to her Annual Cookie Exchange. For those who aren’t familiar with the subtle art of the cookie exchange it’s when your wife makes dozens of delicious peanut butter chip cookies then exchanges them for dozens of inedible NHL Regulation hockey pucks and Cow Chip Tossing Contest Discs with names like “Double Chocolate Peppermint Bar-B-Que Pretzel Nub Cookies” and “Coconut and Raisin Snickerdoodle Crap Bars” and each of these wretched concoctions comes neatly packaged in it’s own cellophane wrapping with an attached recipe in case Kathleen had the sudden compulsion to waste 3 hours of her life making something I wouldn’t use to prop a wobbly table leg.
Sure, we could have embraced the classic spirit of the season and set off into the wild with hatchet in hand and flexible flyer in tow to cut down our own tree, but nothing says Christmas quite like using a $10 coupon from of a big box home improvement store to get your tree. So, we drove to the Lowes just down the road from our house, found an empty parking space, got the boys from the car and walked merrily in to the lawn and garden center. Unlike other Christmas Tree Lots that have acres of verdant trees lined 5 deep against saw horses and that resonate with the metallic din of carols blaring from bullhorn speakers nailed to wooden light poles, Lowes had three rows of tatty pines, maybe 100 total, that leaned in the icy stillness monitored by a skulking midway tilt-a-whirl operator. I’ve seen better fir selections at a PETA rally, but Jack was practically bursting out of his Gortex lining with anticipation of getting the perfect tree and we were in a race against time for Kathleen to be able swap our sacred Peanut Butter with Peanut Butter Chips Cookie Cow for No Bake Magic Bean Ass Cookies so we pressed on.
The first tree we saw after telling Cooder that 1) we didn’t need any help and 2) we didn’t want to see the conjoined twin named Cletus protruding from his abdomen was an archetypal pine scented icon of Tannenbaumery except that the base of the trunk looked like the pillared foot of an African elephant. Jack said he wanted to keep looking so I lowered the Douglas Pachyderm back against the shaky 2×4 support and we continued down the aisle. Over the next 20 minutes Jack flitted from sprig to sprig proclaiming that he’d found the one that he wanted. Now I don’t have many pre-requisites when it comes to choosing a Christmas tree but the one we do select is required to be taller than I am, somewhat triangular in form and have completed at least 6 credit hours of writing intensive English Literature Course Work. While I did the height, shape and transcript evaluation of Jack’s hand-picked applicants Kathleen chased Adam across expanses of ice under the open roof portion of the garden center; Adam just out of the reach of her outstretched hand and stumbling to get his balance like a Canadian Lumberjack in a log rolling competition after a 6-Pack of Labatt Blue, eh.
After lifting and posing with practically every tree in the lot for Jack I was growing increasingly irritated, so I made an executive decision with input from the drunken lumberjack nanny to purchase the tree with the base like the shin of a Wooly Mammoth. Though this was met with initial resistance from a key member of the committee once Cooder dragged the tree to the front, Jack’s disapproval quickly turned to support. It was mainly because he realized that Santa was going to have a place to put the presents, but partially because I told him if he didn’t stop sulking I was going to stuff him inside Cooder’s shirt with Cletus.
After Cooder realized the Ganesh you a Merry Christmas wasn’t going to fit through the netting contraption he threw it on a wheeled pull cart and acted like he never met us. I pulled the cart to the car and with a little help from Jack, and by little help I mean he wiped the salt, dirt and road scum from the SUV next to use with the back of his jacket, I was able to strap the tree to the roof of the Volvo like a 12 point stag.
We drove home in silence except for the metallic din of carols playing on the radio; Horton Loses a Leg lashed to the roof and the doors barely latched shut because of the rope. Adam dozed off exhausted from the log-rolling, Jack filthy from detailing the SUV and practically dancing in his seat in expectation of putting up the tree, and Kathleen calculating the exchange rate for a peanut butter with peanut butter chips cookie which turned out to be four Caramel Dipped Jerk-Asparagus Stalks.
Meanwhile, I was just concerned that our tree meant that I’d have to vote Republican in the upcoming elections.