I was excited about Christmas in a way I had not been for a long time.
For years, Christmas was about purchasing gifts for his family – five nieces and nephews from whom I never any acknowledgments. His children, who sneered at most of the gifts they received, except for the expensive ones. Sometimes they didn’t even bother taking them home. But even better, I also had to come up with gift ideas, and eventually purchase, gifts for the children on behalf of his parents, who “thought it would be easier” that way.
And then there were the gifts for The Departed, who didn’t laugh at my funny stocking stuffers and had so few hobbies or interests that finding anything was next to impossible. Once I found him a really cool antique map of a town where his ancestors lived – many of the farms marked with their names. He never framed it.
This year, though, was different. I could just find stuff for my loved ones. Fun stuff. Geek stuff. Whimsical stuff.
This year, there would be no Christmas spreadsheet.
The first and most important thing in any Christmas is, of course, the tree, and my daughter decided that the one thing we had to do the same as last year – because it’s what we do every year – was go cut down our own tree. This seemed like a good idea – I mean, it’s fun and how hard could it be, right?
The plan: We’re going to go to the Christmas tree farm, find the best tree they have and bring it home, and then my friend Sara – the cop – is going to come over and help us decorate it. I was a little concerned about the whole putting-a-tree-on-top-of-my-car-and-getting-it-home-without-it-falling-off-and-causing-a-major-traffic-incident thing – but otherwise, the plan seemed reasonable.
I can do this.
We got to the Tree Farm, and my daughter ran off to retrieve a bow saw for me. It was kind of old-looking and I’m a bit uncertain.
My phone pings with a text message.
Sara: Still on for tonight?
Me: Yes. At tree farm now.
Now, I not only have an eager eleven-year-old armed with a bow saw, I have a date with a cop. I’m committed.
I will have a tree.
We tromp off to find ourselves the best tree on the farm … because another things we always do is get the best tree on the farm. We wander. We find good trees, to be sure – but look! there are more trees over there. Have we found the best tree yet?
It took a while, but we found it. It was at the far edge of the tree farm – almost, but not quite, as far as you could get from the main entrance and car park. I tell the kid to hold the trunk while I saw.
I imagine how this will work – push, pull, push, pull the saw, followed by a gentle toppling of the tree. The saw has other ideas. To start with, this saw only does pull, not push, so I have to pull, disengage, reposition, and pull again.
It goes slowly.
I think maybe I am not doing this right. I swear every other year I’ve watched this done, the saw goes push, pull, push, pull. I try angling the saw differently. My daughter offers to try sawing. I try holding it with both hands. My daughter tells me I’m doing it wrong. I try it with my left hand. My daughter says I think I should go get help.
I resume pull, pull, pull with my right hand.
My daughter says, it didn’t take this long last year.
My right shoulder hurts.
My phone pings in my pocket.
Sara: What can I bring tonight?
Me: A tree. This one is not cooperating.
Sara: Want me to taze it?
I glare at the tree. See, tree? Cooperate or else! But then I realize I’ve already killed it, or nearly killed it, so I’m not sure it’s going to be concerned about a mere taze.
Pull, pull, pull, pull.
My daughter says, Mommy, can I go get some help now?
She skips gaily through the trees while I rub my aching shoulder and catch my breath. I really want to just pretend this never happened: return the saw and drive to the hardware store, where they have pre-cut trees that they deliver for a small fee. I’m about halfway through the trunk, though, and feeling guilty about what I’ve done to this tree. I can’t just leave it here.
My daughter returns with a tall teenage boy armed with a bow saw. He’s got a total poker face, for which I am extremely grateful, and immediately sets about finishing what I’ve started. The tree topples about a minute later. He loads it on his shoulder and we walk with him to the entrance and car park.
Wow, he says. You went quite a distance.
I’m sorry, I say. Does this happen a lot, that you have to help people?
Not really, he replies, still poker faced. But it’s good exercise.
We get back to our car, where he helps me get the tree on top of my car, and gives me twine to tie it with, and starts off to help the next customer.
Wait, I say. I fish in my pocket and pull out a $20: $2 for the cutting and hauling, $18 for the not laughing at me.
Thanks, I tell him.
He lights up. Thank you, he replies.
We get the tree home, and after waging a brief battle with the tree stand, it is standing majestically in our living room.
My daughter beams. Sara and I drink wine and eat pizza. We light a fire. My daughter decorates.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.