Let's be honest, Christmas is a huge pain in the ass. Yes, there is the love and the family and the opportunity to look back over the past year and see that things are going well / could be worse / will get better next year / pass the bottle of Wild Turkey. But the preparations for that magnificent moment are what weigh down on me. Lights on the house. Decorations. Lying about certain guys in red suits. Shopping. And getting the tree.
When I was a kid, we’d drive out to the local tree farm and search though an acre of land to find the “perfect” tree. Dad would use his arm span to determine the tree height, width, its mass and amount of drag it would cause on the top of the car. We’d all take turns at a few saw cuts on the base before we’d notice that the tree trunk was outrageously crooked and then we’d repeat the whole process at the “almost perfect” tree right next to the first. Timber! We would then drag the tree through the grass and mud wishing there was snow. With a combination of twine and string and rope, we’d fasten the tree to the car through the backseat windows and dad would have us get in the front doors and clamber over the seat to get into the back. (Do not carry the saw with you as you flop over the seats!) The way home had father using a combination of slight steering adjustments, even slighter breaking and drafting to keep the tree from falling off the roof.
Nowadays, the wife and I go to a tree lot. We found a place that has a good selection and reasonable pricing. My four year old, Greg, likes to play hide and seek in the fake forest. Last year it wasn’t hide and seek but rather “Greg won’t answer when mom calls frantically for him for five minutes.” We found a tree rather quickly this year and Sally had to stand next to it while Greg and I snuck through the forest. Once we paid for the tree, the three guys smoking cigarettes by the fire pit simultaneously cut off the bottom, trimmed back branches on the trunk to exactly 8” and tied the tree to the roof of the van (sadly, not through the windows.)
We got home and set the tree up. I let it acclimate to our home’s particular temperature and humidity (or let it “fall” as dad calls it.) I got through attaching the first series of bulbs to the very top of the tree before Miss Sally inquired if I had tested the lights first. I hadn’t, which made 1/3rd of them immediately not work when I did plug them in. That aside, all else went well. As we trimmed it, Greg stuck his army men in the branches. I watered the tree and we all went to bed.
The next morning I tried to add more water to the tree, but only soaked the carpet when the base overflowed from the very first bit of water poured in. I stuck my hand in… it was still full. Miss Sally said she had not filled it which meant the tree was not taking water. We decided to wait to see what would happen that night.
The water was still there except for the tiny bit that the cat might have drank out of it. I went to bed with images of spontaneous combustion and cats on fire running through my head. The next morning, Miss Sally said she had not slept a wink, not because of our children dying in a tree induced fire, but because she thought all the needles were going to fall off and the tree would look like a barren twig by Christmas. It was time for drastic measures. So I ran to the internet.
My search revealed a suggestion that you can attempt to tip the tree, cut an additional inch or two off and reset it, hoping for the best. We laid down towels and blankets, set the tree down with army men falling to their deaths. I cut off two inches just to be sure and we set the tree back up without loss of a single Christmas ornament. I re-filled the base with water and we waited. I thought I could hear the tree slurping up the water. I thought.
Hours later, right before bed, the water level was still the same. I then made a decision to lie. Miss Sally would get a good night sleep this night! I went into the kitchen and told Sally that the tree was taking the water and that I was going to re-fill it. She was relieved. I fake filled it and we went to bed. Sally slept.
That next morning, I shared my evil plan with my friend John. I would siphon water out of the base with a turkey baster and re-fill the base with watering help from Greg, adding to the lie and making him an unknowing accomplice. John simplified my plan when he suggested that I just tell Sally that I was filling the base in the mornings after she left for work. Genius.
This evening, I went to fake fill the base. As I ran the water for a minute, but only filled the container with only a cup of water, I began to feel guilty. But that only lasted a few seconds and I ran to top off the water in the tree base.
And that is when the Christmas miracle happened! The base was empty! The tree was drinking the water! I stuck my hand way down into the bottom and there was just a bit of water left. I went back to the sink, filled the container and topped off the base, this time for real.
At dinner, I confessed my sins to Miss Sally. I came clean about everything. I said that I was doing it all for her. I said it was a Christmas miracle.
She asked me what else I was lying about.
Tonight, as I sleep on the couch, I’ll be able to see the glow of the Christmas lights in the family room.
Unless that’s the glow of a cat on fire.