Sunday, November 26, 2006

O Tannenbaum

The annual hunt for the Christmas tree; loved by many, feared by all – and yet completely necessary to fully partake in commercial Christmas. Before I go any further with this – I should make one thing clear – as clear as the crystal icicle catching twinkle lights on my Christmas tree – I LOVE commercial Christmas. For those of you that know me – I have just perhaps told you something as obvious as "Hi-Def really does look better." The Christmas songs come out immediately after Halloween. The decorations make their way out of the closet within a week of All Saints Day. I completely skim over Thanksgiving (I am only thankful for the day off) and move right into commercial Christmas. Now that I have made that clear I can continue with the story.

In my part of the world people hunt for the tree (typically) the day after Thanksgiving. I appreciate this day for this task. It keeps me out of the stores on Black Friday, which can be overwhelming, and it allows the tree to be up for a good amount of time without drying out. Thanks to Clark Griswold, we all know the dangers of a dry tree.

For the past three years Amy and I have cut down our own tree at a tree farm just outside of Bloomington, IN. They were never able to tie the tree to the roof, so we always ended up squeezing it into the car and getting home reeking of pine and sap on our sleeves. This year we had to find a farm that was closer – and it had to have Frasier firs (Charlie Brown trees according to my sister in law). This is not as simple as it sounds – but commercial Christmas cannot happen without a tree, and a tree is not worth having unless it is a Frasier.

After much "interweb" surfing and some phone calls we found a place that was not too far. We were told the Frasier selection was slim as most people don't like to pay for them – but we were willing to take a chance to save driving hours with a tree crammed in the car. We hit the road with smiles on our faces, Bing Crosby in our ears and the vision of the perfect tree in our minds.

Thanks to global warming it was about 65 outside – so there was no need to bundle up – which makes the process just a little easier although in a sick and twisted way, not quite as enjoyable. Regardless of weather, Amy and I trudged up and down the rows seeking the symbol of Christmas. The selection of Frasier firs was slim…very slim. But we pressed on. We didn't want to "settle" on a tree that wasn't perfect, but our ornaments were begging to get out of the box – so we knew we had to act quick.

Finally I spotted it. It looked perfect. Not too full, not too symmetrical, not too tall – just perfect. The trick is that Amy and I rarely agree…at first. Although our vision might be similar, when it comes to the details we both get quite picky. I had to tread carefully with this tree. I did not want to push her into a decision. I had to let her think about it, look at the tree for all angles – find the "good side" and the "bad side." She had to debate the tree in her head and I had to just stand back and let it happen. It is a delicate process – and it can determine the entire season.

As I lingered a couple of rows over I saw her warming to the idea of the tree I had found. I watched her carefully as she tested the needles and sized up the tree. Finally she turned to me and nodded. She didn't cave, I didn't push it – she just saw it. I was ecstatic that we were on the same page. I just knew that this tree was going to be great – I knew that it was going to be one for the ages.

Well, we tucked the tree in our cart and pushed our way up to the register. We picked up some extension cords and light bulbs too. The tree cost slightly more than we had planned on, but the cost will surely balance out over the years.

It's funny…we went to Menards to look at a kitchen sink on our way to the tree farm– and we unexpectedly ended up leaving with a plastic Frasier Fir in a cardboard box. The tradition remained intact…the tree rode home inside the car. The only thing missing was the sap. Ah…Christmas.

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