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Pining for Christmas

Christmas Tree 1This year we wanted to start a new Christmas tradition with my kids, something we could enjoy together during this special season as we give thanks for our blessings and celebrate the birth of our Lord.

So we decided to go out and kill a perfectly good tree.

I grew up with one of those fake plastic trees and, honestly, I was fine with it. You really couldn’t see the tree anyway, buried beneath the ton of tinsel that my mother would meticulously place, piece by piece, on every single fake branch.

I used to love to gaze up at that shimmering plastic pine and bask in the glow of those big old-fashioned lights that would bathe the room in a soft, multi-color glow, and that would actually last more than one year, unlike today’s cheapy, made-to-self-destruct-after-one-use lights.

My wife and I have had fake tree ever since we were married 10 years ago, and it has served us well. I actually keep it set up year-round in the basement so that I can just carry it upstairs – scraping the paint from the walls as I go – and plop it in the corner of the living room. That way I avoid spending hours trying to figure out how to assemble it.

This year we thought it would be a little more fun to go out and get a real tree. Not only would it give our home that wonderful pine-fresh smell, but after Christmas, instead of hauling it back down to the basement, I could just drag it out to the curb and let the Borough deal with it. And what’s more American than a disposable tree!

So on a recent wintry morning, we packed into the car and headed out to a local Christmas tree farm. The kids were buzzing with excitement when we arrived, and I knew right away that this was going to be a cherished new annual tradition. Then, five seconds out of the car, my son reached down to the ground to grab some snow to eat and ended up with a mouthful of dirt and pine needles. Let the memory-making begin!

Riding on the cartWe had heard that the best type of tree to get is a Frasier Fir because supposedly it sheds the least amount of needles. So we asked one of the employees to point us in the right direction. “We can’t grow them Frasiers up ‘ere,” said the kind young man, a wad of tobacco tucked firmly in cheek. “What you want is a Douglas Fir. Just head down that-a-way. Can’t miss’em.”

So I grabbed a tree cart, the kids hopped on, and we headed off into the manmade forest.

Halfway down the trail my son fell off the cart, and I dragged him in the snow for a bit before my daughter alerted me to the situation. Luckily, the little guy was fine. A little dirt in his mouth, but that was nothing new.

Before the killingAfter about 15 minutes of comparing the virtues of various trees, we finally found the perfect specimen—a majestic, 8-foot Douglas Fir with a nice full shape and, more important, no signs of bird nests or stink bugs. Next I did my best lumberjack impersonation as the kiddos went off looking for more dirty snow to eat. Then we towed the tree back up the hill, where the Carhartt crew bundled it up as I went inside to buy a stand that cost nearly as much as the tree itself.

Although I still feel a little remorseful about chopping it down, I really do like the way the decorated tree corpse looks in the corner of our living room. Sure, maybe we have to pick up the occasional pine needle and remember to water it every so often, but there’s just something so special about a real tree.

Dead and lifeless, though it may be.

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Posted by on December 13, 2012 in Christmas

 

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It’s My Wonderful Life

It sounded like a good idea. Take a 23-month-old to a 2-hour-long, black-and-white, largely dialogue-driven movie right smack in the middle of dinner time.

On second thought, no it didn’t.

As part of our ongoing efforts to establish some Christmas traditions, Cassie and I took Boogieface and The Animal, to The Strand Theater for a matinee showing of one of my favorite movies, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” We knew my 4-year-old daughter would like the movie, because it features one of her favorite songs. As for my son, well, since television usually puts him into a calm, sedated, zombie-like state, we figured the large movie screen would only amplify the effect.

We strategically selected seats up in the balcony in order to distance ourselves from the crowd. But the theater soon filled up, and we found ourselves hemmed in on every side, with no easy escape route.

As the opening credits rolled on the screen, my kids’ eyes locked onto the bright rectangle before them, and I crossed my fingers.

For a while things were fine. Boogs sat quietly at my side, sipping on her Sierra Mist; The Animal too seemed content, resting in the warmth of a mother’s embrace. But then, just as George and Mary Charlestoned their way into the high school swimming pool, my son’s hound-dog-like olfactory system detected the scent of food.

“Want popcorn?!” he said loudly, in his typical request/demand style. Cassie and I exchanged glances, and I immediately understood my mission: Get popcorn—STAT! By the time Donna Reed was hiding within the hydrangeas, I was back with two bags, which I hoped would keep the little guy busy for a while.

But we both knew the time bomb was ticking.

Then, just as the “run” began on the Bailey Building and Loan, ironically, my son felt a sudden urge to run himself. Having devoured both bags of popcorn, he was now re-energized and restless. After squirming free of Cassie’s grasp, he tried to escape down her end of the aisle but was stopped by her leg. Without hesitation, he made a break for my side and met the same obstruction. He was trapped. Or so we thought.

Just as George and Mary shared an emotional embrace in their soggy honeymoon suite, my son barked something unintelligible, which echoed throughout the theater. It sounded like the noise that the raptors make in “Jurassic Park” when they’re calling the others to come in for the kill.

I could feel the vexation of my fellow moviegoers as they glared in our direction, so I scooped up my boy and made a beeline for the nearest exit. But soon, after chasing The Animal back and forth from the rear-exit stairway to the water fountains and back several times, I decided I had to find another way to wait out the movie.

So out into the blustery December night we went, my son in his cozy winter coat; me in my flimsy zip-up sweatshirt. My coat was in my car, and the keys, of course, were up in the balcony with my wife. And since there’s no way we could go back in – literally, the door locked behind us – I would have to just tough it out, which is something I’m not very good at.

For the next hour or so, The Animal happily hopped down Zelienople’s main thoroughfare peering in the windows of the town’s stores, which were all closed for the night. Meanwhile I played border collie, trying to keep him from darting out into the street. At one point, he climbed up onto a porch, stuck his head through the railing, and said to me, “Want ice cream?” I thought he was pretty darn cute, so I played along. “Sure!” I said. “I’ll take some.” Two seconds later he returned with my “ice cream”: a dirty ash tray.

After the movie, Cass and Boogs, warmed both inside and out from the holiday classic, found us across the street in an Italian restaurant, where I was attempting to defrost with a glass of cheap red wine. For the moment, my son was calm, his attention held by a Grover picture book he was reading on my iPhone, which, by the way, he was smearing with ketchup-covered, French-fry-greasy fingers.

But despite being cold and tired and frustrated, and besides having to woof down my dinner while defending myself and the other patrons from flying salt shakers and other toddler-powered projectiles, I have to admit, it really is a wonderful life.

Just next time I think we’ll rent the DVD.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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