Even though the Norwegian Artist and I successfully run a business together, we have not, after 28 years of Christmas cheer, developed a business plan for acquiring the annual Christmas tree. Every year, we stumble onto a different way of getting greenery into the living room, where, through the weeks, it provides haven for any cat smart enough to dart through the door and under the needles.
As a child, I and my four siblings dragged our father, the Professorial One, to the local Christmas tree lot, where he predictably complained about the exorbitant prices of dead conifers. One year, my Favorite and Only Sister conceived the brilliant notion of pre-paying most of the tree’s price:
“Look,” she took aside the lot’s teenaged help and shoved bills into his hands. “Do you see that man there, the one with the fogged over glasses and the concerned look? Regardless of what tree he drags over to you, tell him it’s $5. Any tree — $5.”
And so, for years, the Professorial One complained about the exorbitant price of $5 Christmas trees.
This technique, however, is not suitable for the Norwegian Artist, since the first thing he would do is flip over the tag and ask, “If the tree is $5, then why does the red and green slip say $42?” (Why a PhD in microbiology never did this is a mystery deserving of a doctoral dissertation; no doubt it has something to do with the more visual nature of artists.)
Our first Christmas together, the honeymoon squeezed between fall and winter university quarters, the Norwegian Artist and I shared a cold at a coastal establishment whose many shortcomings fortunately did not prophetically portend the future of our marriage. A violent windstorm knocked giant branches into the streets, and one of these we dragged home, propped up in the corner, and festified with a red velvet bow. The Norwegian Artist thought we were overdoing the decoration thing.
And, indeed, for the next five years, we did very little since, A) we were wretchedly poor and could not justify the purchase of tree products unless they were destined to provide heat in the wood stove and B) we visited the parents, and their $5 tree, for the holidays.
Upon the birth of a child, however, I was adamant that we needed a Tannenbaum, so we headed for the hills with the $5 forestry tree-cutting permit and another couple, the female of whom fretted because the tree her husband cut down was 11 feet, 6-inches tall, and the maximum allowed height was 11 feet.
“Relax,” he finally sighed, pulling out the ax and whacking off the top. “It’s under 11 feet.”
Later years we endured a string of luck with newly opened grocery and Mart stores, all of whom offered loss-leader Christmas trees for — amazingly — $5. Lincoln is indeed my man.
Once we purchased our land, tree acquisition was easy, since we had an entire driveway of crowded little conifers, begging to be thinned. One year the tree was 20 feet high and 4 feet wide at the base; another year the Norwegian tied two emaciated saplings, starved for light between two genuine trees, together to make something of which Charlie Brown could be proud.
And then there was the time that I found a snowed-upon commercial Christmas tree — the kind that costs a 5 in the ones place and a five in the tens — on the side of the highway, where it had fallen off of some poor harassed man’s pick-up. We gave it a good, happy home, and, after the holidays, denuded it of all decorations, stuck it in the snow, and set a match to it, creating an inferno of fire that one sees only in James Bond movies.
Well, the driveway is fully thinned, and when I broach the topic of trees the Norwegian stares dreamily out at the back 40 and says, “What about some of those large, herbal bushes? They have a pleasant smell, and they are small enough to fit on the table.”
This is not good.
Barring driving up and down the highway in frantic search for another abandoned commercial tree, my options are limited. In an unguarded moment, the Norwegian Artist mentioned that some of the 300-plus trees we planted on our 7 acres are getting a little crowded, and the concept of “thinning” was broached as far back as July.
So. It is time to secure the verbal services and support of my many and noisy progeny, put on the cocoa, track down some gloves and a chainsaw, and shove the Norwegian out the door, with strict injunctions to NOT bring back a large, smelly, weedy, bushy herb.
Got your tree yet?