Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Tree

We went tonight and got our Christmas tree.

When I was younger, I referred to it as "tree hunting," since you always drove home with your trophy tied to the top of your car. It was funny then. *cough*

I tried to keep that going when the kids started arriving, but they hadn't grown up on the same cartoons I had, especially the Disney one with all the bears on the car . . . you know the one. Apparently jokes about killing animals are verboten in modern, sensitive cartoons. Bleh.

"Put it in the bag, put it in the bag, boom boom . . ."

Usually, we do this sooner. Twelve days to go, barely two weeks, is cutting it a little close. Sometimes we get our tree the week right after Thanksgiving, sometimes the week after that, but never this late, I don't think.

And it's not the only holiday tradition we've broken this year. We normally get a new Christmas CD to listen to in the car on the way home from Thanksgiving. But not this year. That one kind of bothered me, because it's one of my favorites. Christmas and music are, to me, inextricably linked. Smells, nah. Decorations in the stores, pshaw (they start after Labor Day, for goodness sakes). But Christmas songs, ah, now it's begun.

My dad had a Christmas songs tape that we listened to when we were kids. White Christmas, by the Drifters (I think; Dah-du, dah-dum . . .), Pretty Paper by Willie Nelson, some Bing Crosby. Fantastic. That's how Christmas begins for me.

Why no CD this year? Why so late on the tree and other decorations? We have a Frosty the Snowman bowl, specially suited for M&M's, which is still in the attic. Our jigsaw-cutout NOEL? Also in a box.

Perhaps it was the late warm weather (Indian Summer, we call it here in The South). It was still warm and dry pretty far into Fall. Usually, I can't blow leaves in November due to all the rain and cold. I did it twice this year and could have done it more.

There's a flower that blooms when the average temperature of all the days since the last frost equals some number. I don't know the name or the number, but perhaps we're like that (or maybe it's just me). It has to be so cold for so many days before the Christmas spirit "turns on." Maybe not. I'm not sure.

My wife is normally the driver for things around the house. I work, spank children, and drive places. She does everything else. It's a good system. Decorating and preparing for Christmas is her deal. It's the only holiday or seasonal decorating we do (barring the mangled pumpkin that sometimes finds its way onto the porch for Halloween, but that's it, really). I'm just the unskilled labor in this aspect of home-having. But maybe I need to step up a bit.

I had to lay down the law about the tree. "This week," I said, and she nodded. There was haggling over nights: book club, karate, etc., but she seemed glad that I had cleared the calendar of detrius so that we could go get the tree. She is happier now; she asked me if I could smell the tree when she came upstairs. She likes the smell of the Christmas tree, and I will do anything on earth to make her happy.

Except decorate the tree. Tomorrow, she and the children will decorate the tree and I will stay locked in my office. If I die early (as is predicted, and even bet upon in some circles) it will be from an aneurysm, either from driving (the 2-to-1 favorite) or from decorating a Christmas tree. I hate doing it, and I'm really not at liberty to say why. Let's just say that most of the swear words I know I picked up at a certain season of the year, during a purportedly "family" activity involving a tree, lights, and glass ornament-type objects. One of my named ulcers (Carl) is from tree-decorating (he's doing well, thank you, and he sends his regards).

All this is to say that tonight, after a very late support call (who calls at 4:58 and expects help, really?), rounding up kids from several yards and cul-de-sacs, a late announcement that my wife would be joining us ("What are you doing in the car?" "Book club was canceled." "Ok."), and some shuffling of cars to make room for tree-y things, we went to Home Depot and got a tree.

He's a 6-7 foot Douglas Fir. Home Depot (my kids' least-favorite store in the world, by the way; Timothy cried once when we pulled in; he was 4) had them bound up, so that you couldn't see what shape they really were. I was getting back in the car to go somewhere else, but my wife reminded me that the Tucker Pike's had closed. I wept, just a little, and took the boys inside to go to the bathroom. Carl had already begun dancing. She picked out the tree.

True to Home Depot form, there was just one guy working the tree lot. He did all of the cutting, wrapping, and car-tying-on, in addition to having to explain to every customer the convoluted process of going inside to pay for the tree before he could do any of the above. Poor guy.

He was not a professional, sad to say, and the cutting and tying-on left something to be desired. So as we drove home (slowly), I tasked Timothy with alerting me if the tree fell off. He said he would scream, I asked if he would calmly tell me if the tree fell off, and he informed me that the scream was his preferred method. Ok.

We stopped at Chick-fil-a and got dinner for the two mile trip home: two 6 piece kids meals, one with Sprite and one with Lemonade, two 4 piece kids meals, one with Sprite and one with Lemonade, a number 1 combo with Coke, and a Southwest salad with fat-free honey mustard. I have this order memorized, which should tell you how much we eat at Chick-fil-a.

On the way home, we were having a hard time finding appropriate music. Both of the stations we rely on for Christmas music (94.9 and 98.5) chose that 5 minutes span to air commercials. Timothy, who is always better in tune with what goes on in the front seat than with anything else, suggested that we sing Christmas songs "for real."

I looked at my wife in disbelief, turned off the radio, said "good idea," and asked him what he wanted to sing.

"Jingle Bells, either the real one or a funny one." Apparently there are several of the latter. I suggested the regular one, and we all began. Timothy started, which means he chose the key (high), and remarkably, everyone stayed in tune. I was into the second verse when I realized that I was the only one singing. My wife was staring at me, "What are you singing?"

"Jingle Bells."

"Whatever. Stephen, it's your turn. What song do you want to sing?"

"Joy to The World." And he sang it, and he stayed in tune. I've got me some singers.

Jonah sang a funny version of Jingle Bells, mixing the Batman and Madagascar renditions. Sam sang about 5 words of the same thing before dumping his lemonade down his front ("I peeow.").

That round got us halfway home, so we sang some more songs, punctuated at various points with children yelling "MERRY CHRISTMAS!" when they saw lights on a house. This is a good tradition. I hope we remember it next year.


At 4:33 PM, Blogger Becki said...

Awwwwhhhhh! How sweet! I wish I had been there - but that might have made Carl upset :( Now you know why I hate putting up a Christmas tree, too! Mom


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