As a small boy growing up in the federal housing projects in Brooklyn, one of the things our family looked forward to most was the annual purchase of a Christmas tree. Our dad was a master at waiting until the very last minute on Christmas Eve to make “the buy.” Then, with the skill of a gypsy, he would wheel and deal until he got the very best price on a six-foot tall tree with only one bare spot on it, which, of course would always be positioned to the rear, facing the corner. If you couldn’t see it, it didn’t exist. That was Dad’s motto.
As a married man, I picked up the gauntlet and followed in the footsteps of my father, forever in search of the “impossible dream” of more tree for less money. Granted, I no longer waited until the final day before Christmas to buy the tree, especially after my two children were born. However, it was not uncommon for us to travel to half a dozen nearby towns, searching for The Tree. Through it all, there was one constant: It had to be a real tree. No ersatz Christmas bush would do. No sir! If there wasn’t any sap in the trunk of our car, we hadn’t gotten our tree yet.
It might be a stretch to say that it was my Christmas tree obsession that led to the demise of my first marriage, but it surely was a contributing factor. Did I learn my lesson? Noooooo! After my divorce and subsequent remarriage, the same pattern was repeated, only now there was a new supporting cast of “enablers.” However, the price of gasoline was becoming an impediment to my obsession. No longer could I drag my new wife and her two children to town after town, burning up gallon upon gallon of cheap fuel. It just wasn’t financially feasible. So, slowly but surely, we began to relax the standards. First, our height requirement dropped: from right up to the ceiling to just above the window. Then, the permissable number of bare spots increased from one to as many as three— as long as they were hidden in the rear.
Fast forward to 1999. We were now without children at home, and on our inaugural Christmas in North Carolina, we did the unthinkable. Yes, friends and neighbors, we purchased (I shudder to say the words) our first artificial Christmas tree. After years and years of fighting the good fight, we had finally succumbed to the pressure of conformity. After all, everyone else had one, so why shouldn’t we? To be fair, it was a big fellow, about nine feet tall, and it dominated our living room—for four Christmases. Then, we moved to a smaller house with lower ceilings, and we ditched the artificial tree in favor of a real one—at least for a couple of years. But with fewer and fewer guests showing up to see it, we again returned to the world of artificiality. Then, last year, we went without a tree completely.
So, where does that leave us? Well, I’ll tell you. Or can you guess? Hint: It involves the Internet. Yep, this year we bought our tree online. And it wasn’t that easy, either. Most of the cheapos were sold out already when I began my search, but not to worry. We have a high speed Internet connection. So, after surfing the Net for what seemed like an eternity, I finally found a nice little five-footer at Lowes—and I didn’t have to take a mortgage on my house to buy it. I still haven’t seen it in the flesh yet, however, because I wasn’t the one who went to pick it up. I left that little task in the capable hands of my wife. Big mistake.
She had been gone less than a half hour when my cell phone rang. “If you think I’m buying that ‘twig,’ you’re crazy,” she said (or words to that effect). Nuts! Now what? “Okay, then,” I said, “get whichever one you like.” So she got a bigger—and, no doubt, better—one, and brought it home. It presently resides within its box in our basement, where it menaces me and dares me to “Go ahead, put me up!” And I will, too—when I’m good and ready. After all, there’s no rush. It’s already got lights on it, and we’ve agreed not to overload it with ornaments (just the special ones). Heck, Christmas is more than a week away and there’s plenty of time for me to erect the little beauty. Maybe I’ll even wait until Christmas Eve. Dad would be proud.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
NOTE: There will be no blog post for the next two weeks, because my family and I will be enjoying the holiday to the max. I can’t wait to spend Christmas with our family, and especially with our wonderful two-year-old granddaughter. So, from our family to yours, Merry Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year! See you in 2017.