Since our first year of marriage, Dan and I have never gotten a real tree. We have a great tree stand and I have a great love of fresh trees with all their smells and messes and fire hazards. And although Dan loves me and would humor my choice of tree whatever it was, I’ve opted for fake because we normally spend a good chunk of the holidays out of town visiting family.
This year we decided to try having out first Christmas at home, just the 4 of us, an island in a sea of holiday festivity, missing our families but trying to make our own magic. And I decided that this was the year. It had finally come. We’d pull out the 10 pound Costco tree stand, head down the street to the tree farm and saw us down a live one.
On Monday night after Dan got home from work, we drove out of town to a little farm I’d had my eye on and almost drove right past it because apparently tree farms in the country do not stay open all night. Little tree farms in the country do not have lights and inflatable animatronic reindeer riding motorcycles. All they actually have are trees, saws and an old guy, an old guy who apparently shuts the whole operation down when it gets dark for legal reasons.
When I went back with the kids the next day, he explained that saws shown in the above picture with the sign that looks as if it were painted with blood are not safe when used by small children or by adults in the dark of night. So he generally closes down at 4:30 and goes home, I’m assuming to his wife Martha. He was an impossibly cute old man and if he doesn’t have a wife named Martha waiting at home with fresh biscuits and a hearty meal, it’s not because he doesn’t deserve one.
As we walked through the rows and rows of greenery, it became evident that they did not have one perfect tree, they had several of them, spaced equidistant from each other across the several acre farm. I would have been happy with nearly any tree. Magoo would have been happy with a cookie and a piggy-back ride back to the car for more cookies. But Laylee would not be so easily pleased. She eventually settled on one of two trees which were located on either end of the farm. So we trudged back and forth looking at them, comparing their merits and eventually asking the cute old man to help us saw it down. Apparently my intense athletic training has not afforded me any new muscles because I might as well have been attempting to saw that thing down with a plastic spoon for all the difference my efforts were making.
The man pointed out that the trees were a little muddy because his entire farm had been under water when the valley flooded last month. He advised me to hose it down before taking it into my house.
As we drove home, little rivers of mud trickled down the windows of the van. Standing in the driveway I rolled the massive tree down from the roof rack and drug it awkwardly over to the side of the house where I began hosing it down. Every needle on the bottom half of the tree was coated with mud. There was grass and other flood debris tangled in the branches. I pulled off a slug and thought longingly of my tacky $20 fake tree sitting peacefully muck and vermin-free, weighing considerably less than 300 lbs in its box in the garage.
When I thought I’d finished scrubbing it down, I carried it to the front porch and realized it was at least a foot too tall so I got out our saw and began rubbing it firmly against the trunk of the tree and making no impact. I regretted the decision we had passively made every day of our lives not to purchase a chain saw.
Then I got an idea. I ran upstairs and got the giant hatchet we keep under our dresser in case an earthquake ever causes our door to jam closed in the night and we need to hack our way out and I started pounding the literal heck out of that tree. Heck was flying everywhere and I really enjoyed myself. It only took about an hour. I hope my kids don’t mind waiting that long for me to save them in the event of a quake.
I picked the tree up, setting its mangled gimpy stump on the ground, quite proud of myself and held it upright to get a good look at my handiwork. The tree was the right height but was still dripping with mud.
So I drug it out front and hosed it off again, this time scrubbing each branch and needle with my fingernails. I later heard that my neighbors were watching this whole process from their windows in fascination, trying to guess what I was doing. Was it some strange religious tree cleansing ritual? Was I a total germaphobe? They came to the conclusion that I’d come up with some fabulous way of prolonging the life of the tree and that they’d been doing it wrong for years.
Natasha about busted a gut laughing when I told her I was just trying to de-mud/de-slug the thing before taking it inside.
But now it’s up and it’s beautiful. When Laylee saw it all aglow, all decorated, she said, “Oh MOM! It’s so lovely. It’s the most beautiful tree in the world. It’s almost as good as a FAKE tree!”