After spending eight hours at my mother’s house extricating ornaments and decor from boxes I’d lugged from the attic, I decided I’d had enough of the holiday spirit.
Call me a grinch.
I’m tired of holiday music in the stores. I’m sick of Santas clanging bells. I’m tired of tinsel and garlands and wreaths and toy drives and … yeah. Grinch! But I have a different reason.
Just last week, I was bragging about my skills at picking out trees for the holidays. I went on and on about how I own a truck, I can help anyone with any tree, anywhere! I didn’t think anyone would, like, take me up on it!
But when my friend — I’ll call her … “Michelle” — called, and asked for help with her first-ever Christmas tree, I decided ’twas the season, and headed out to assist. OK. Full disclosure: I rolled my eyes, then headed out to help.
I know, I know. Helping with a Christmas tree is much like helping a friend move. Become sick! Sell your vehicle! Amputate a leg! Run for the hills — even if you only have one leg!
En route to the tree store, I couldn’t help but notice — and point out — all the free trees growing along the roadsides. Just there for the picking, I said. But Michelle apparently wanted to pay money. To each their own, I guess.
The trees at the lumber yard were beautiful, especially in comparison to what I’m used to.
At 10,000 feet elevation in Colorado, the only trees that grow are lodgepole pines, which if they hadn’t been consumed by pine beetles, are usually flocked in a heavy coating of mistletoe.
There are different kinds of mistletoe, people. There’s that pretty, leafy vegetation with a little red, shiny berry and a bow under which you kiss? It’s … magical. Then there’s the stuff that grows on lodgepole pines: a sticky, twisted, stunted parasite.
The lodgepole pines aren’t much different. Sometimes they verge on ... suitable, if you squint your eyes and drink a lot. But for the most part, they make Charlie Brown’s tree look leafy and full. The branches are thick — some can support Tonka trucks as ornaments! (Use a wooden hanger) — and the needles bite. On purpose. They’ve got fangs; I swear. The mistletoe distorts the branches, making them look like snakes that just ate rabbits. I kid you not.
So these grand and Douglas and Noble firs, these Oregon TREES, all looked wondrous to me!
Michelle and I finally selected the most perfect tree, tied it to my truck and headed back to Brookings.
We set up the Christmas tree stand and, when I wriggled underneath the tree to position the trunk, I noticed our perfect tree had a little “congenital defect.” The trunk angled off, then went straight and tall.
I didn’t think to look at the trunk when we were eyeing all these bushy trees!
Work with whatcha got, right? While Michelle and her boyfriend eyeballed the tree to ensure it was perfectly straight, I fought off little needles and branches (much better than mistletoe) and screwed the trunk down in the stand.
“OK, let go. Slowly.”
And the tree slowly began to lean west. It kept going, going ...
I was going to have to cut off a few branches to get it to lean ... up.
“Got a saw?”
Yeah. This is Michelle we’re talking about.
I have an array of tools, but in this case, we had the choice of my fire department axe, which was an award, or a little saw blade — more like an emery board — on my Swiss Army knife.
You can imagine how the rest of the afternoon went. The neighbors must have thought there was a horror flick being filmed, what with all that sawing with the little knife. The tree was thrashing around like it was being throttled. Needles were flying. The only thing missing was eerie music and a couple of screams, although Michelle’s boyfriend provided a couple yelps.
But the branches came off, the screws were wrenched into the trunk, and I fled before the tree could lean west again.
Phew! (Pant) Done. (Gasp) Have fun with the lights.
My hair was strewn with needles, my shirt was torn. I was brandishing the little knife when the cops surrounded me.
And that, officer, is why I’m skipping Christmas this year. Can I go home now?