This 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!
We 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.
After 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.