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It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year…

Everybody’s got that one Christmas story. I’ve got at least three… but for today… let’s start with one of my favorites:

I was eighteen and really into Christmas. The decorating. The family dinners. The snow. The tree. I loved the tree. Now in the past we had gone to the local Home Depot and gotten a pre-cut tree. This particular year though, we had seen an ad for fresh cut trees at a small home tree farm not far from our house and I insisted that this was where we would go.

No one was particularly in the season and I was having none of it, I was all in. My mom and sister stayed home, my dad and I suited up in boots, hats, gloves, and coats. We headed out to the tree farm. It was late afternoon when we arrived. The sun was already beginning to set (New England bullshit) and the air was silent with an impending snow hanging heavy in the air.

It was early in December but already there were a good six inches of snow on the ground. The air was cold. We bundled up tighter as we pulled into the driveway of the home tree farm and opened up the doors… December chill meeting our bare faces.

We were barely up on the front steps of the brown, nondescript home practically hidden in a sea of hopeful Christmas trees at various stages of maturity, when the door swung open and a kid bundled so tight in a snow suit that I could scarcely guess their age or gender. “Tree?” Said the kid.

We nodded yes and the kid pointed to the depths of the massive tree filled farm. “Call me when you got one.” And the kid scampered off, grabbing a little toboggan and hack saw before disappearing into the dark woods. We were alone. We looked at one another, shrugged, and started the hunt for our tree.

I’m not sure quite how long it took, but after what felt like too many sub par trees and way too much disappointment, we came upon a clearing. And in the center of that clearing sat a little hill and growing out the side of that hill was the most perfect Christmas tree I had ever seen. Every branch was filled with the loveliest blue green needles, each bough was more thick and shapely than the next, and not a bare spot in the tree. As if to make sure we wouldn’t pass up the most perfect tree in all the farm, a single last ray of sunlight shown through the larger trees on the outskirt of the clearing and directly onto our little tree on the side of that hill.


Before we could even summon them, the kid appeared out of nowhere. They cut down the tree with a few expertly quick cuts and had the tree on the toboggan and then on top of our car before my dad could even get his gloves off to grab his wallet and the $25 for our holiday purchase.

“Wait until you see the tree!” I exclaimed, barging into the house as my dad untied the tree from the roof of the car, giving it one final shake to remove the last of the snow that hadn’t fallen off on the rooftop ride home. “Gorgeous”, my mom exclaimed. Cookies baking in the oven and Christmas carols playing from the living room as my dad dragged the tree through the doorway, the thick branches barely fitting through. My younger, moody teen sister rolled her eyes, “Can we hurry up and decorate? I’m going out soon.” Everyone ignored her as I helped my father guide the tree into the stand.

Very quickly we realized though that there was a problem. Try as we might, the tree would not sit quite right in the stand. We’d lean it to the left but it veered right. And then we’d move it more right and the bottom would skew left. Adjust. Twist. Unscrew. Screw. Again. Adjust. Twist. Not quite right. Try again… and on this went for a few minutes. We were starting to sweat. My mom was circling the tree as i adjusted the angle on the top and my father lied on the ground feverishly tightening and loosening and tightening and loosening the big screw bolts that held the thick trunk in place. “It looks good now”, my mom would eventually say, “straight…” she added.

And when I let go of the tree and stepped back to look, I guess it looked straight to me too. Straight enough at least. “Can we decorate NOW?”, my sister asked. “NO!”, my dad said. He was sweaty and covered in needles as he got up from under the tree… “I have to do the lights now!” My sister was indignant. My dad and I spent the next thirty minutes wrapping the tree in white lights while my mom finished the last batch of cookies.

When the tree was wrapped in lights my mom was just placing the last of the cookies in the oven and the four of us began decorating the tree. The house smelled of baking goodness, fresh cut tree, and the woodsy smell of the fire in the hearth. Christmas music wafted in from the living room. The cat slept on the back of the couch just feet from the tree and our German Shepherd laid along the heat register just to the rear of the tree. We finished decorating and stood back to admire our work. Well my sister didn’t give two shits, she was already starting back up the stairs to finish putting on makeup but the rest of us stood and looked at the most perfect tree we had ever seen.

My mom walked back into the kitchen, my dad was gathering the empty boxes that had held the ornaments and began putting them back into the big rubber maid bins we kept them all in when I heard something. A swoosh. The sound of movement. I turned just in time to see our tree going down. Our beautiful tree was crashing towards the ground… not straight enough it would appear. I let out an unintelligible noise just as my father looked up and scrambled out of the way, the tree, barely missing him, came crashing down just out of harm’s way.

The dog and cat reacted simultaneously: with a flurry of fur they were both up from their respective spots, the terrified dog spraying a steady stream of warm, liquid fear from one end of the living room to the other, the cat, running for safety would slide in the river of piss, sending a spray of urine into the air that mixed with the pine needles and shards of splintered glass.

Ornaments were smashed to smithereens. My parents up until that point, had had a tree full of antique glass ornaments and the super sappy, not antique but glass nonetheless: first Christmas together, first home, baby’s first Christmas, etc. ornaments… now they all lay smashed on the floor. Glass, pine needles, dog fur, cat fur, dog piss, littered the floor. My jaw was on the ground. “SON OF A FUCKING GOD DAMN BITCH. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK. FUCK.” That was my dad. At this point my mom started crying. “Our first Christmas ornament! Your mom and dad’s ornaments! They’re all gone!” She sobbed. My sister had strolled back into the family room, intent on seeing what all the commotion was about and after determining that this did indeed potentially effect her in some way, let everyone know that she would “NOT be decorating the stupid tree again because she was going out”. My dad angrily sputtered something about her being quiet just as the smoke detector went off… smoke now billowing out of the oven… the cookies!

Then in the background, and I will remember it forever… as I looked out over the carnage: the toppled tree, the piss laden floor, the shards of glass, the blue green needles everywhere, my mom crying, my pissed off, inconvenienced teenage sister ready to throw down, my dad quietly swearing under his breath, the smoke detector blaring, and the tendril of thin gray smoke streaming out of the oven there it was; and we all seemed to notice it and quiet simultaneously, Andy Williams crooning loudly from the stereo in the other room:

It's the most wonderful time of the year

There'll be much mistltoeing

And hearts will be glowing

When loved ones are near

It's the most wonderful time…

Yes the most wonderful time….

Oh the most wonderful time…

Of the year!

Needless to say, the tree had NOT been straightened adequately.

The second time around, the tree was noticeably less decorated and there were only three of us quietly decorating; there was one less batch of cookies cooling in the kitchen, the dog cowered in a corner no longer sleeping on the warm register on the floor, the cat still traumatized was nowhere to be seen. The smoke detector and carols were now both turned off. I’m not sure who laughed first… was it my dad or I? Definitely not my mom. She didn’t laugh. She didn’t find the great tree debacle the least bit funny. But my dad? My dad and I were both roaring.

Still the best tree ever.

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