To fully understand this story, you must know two things. One: always growing up, we either had a fake tree or a balled and burlapped one. OK, there was a time in my infancy when we had real cut trees. But Dad decided live trees were a fire hazard in our living room, with its live fireplace, so for years we went over to fakies. (Never mind that for the tree to catch fire, it would have needed to get up and walk more than halfway across the room, then fall over into the hearth.)
Two: I didn’t much like decorating anyway, starting from a young age. The plastic tree pretty well erased what little enjoyment I might have taken from the ritual. The balled and burlapped ones when I was a teen were small, nice looking, and altogether dull. And they took about six minutes to ornament unless we dragged things out with extra light strands.
Oh. And one other thing. I hate Christmas.
The one year I lived completely alone, I put up no holiday decorations, murdered no firs, and watched not a single Christmas special. Bliss. People offered me wreaths and garlands, and I rejected them saying, “I’m finally away from that garbage.”
Yeah. Fast forward a year. I was living with Scott in a different apartment, we were bogged down with grad school, and we had agreed not to fool with decorations. Only I got this stab of guilt because he loves Christmas so much that he watches It’s a Wonderful Life every year. So while he was teaching one night, I went to a tree farm. I needed something small enough to fit into the trunk of my compact car, and easy enough for me to carry up to our apartment. I found one roughly four feet tall, bought it and its stand and muddled the whole kit and caboodle up to the stairs.
Scott came home and, after admiring my find asked, “Why didn’t you put it in a bucket of water if you were waiting for me to put it in the stand?”
“I don’t see why I would have,” I told him. “It was stuck on a post at the lot.”
“Right,” He said, “But when they cut it off again, the base is fresh.”
“What are you talking about?”
He cleared his throat. “The base of the tree covers with sap if it gets much of a chance to dry out. It won’t drink, then, and it dies faster.”
“I don’t think it really matters,” he went on. “It’s only been a couple of hours…”
“Yeah, only I didn’t let them cut it off again,” I said.
“They offered, but I thought, Well that’s dumb. Why would I want to cut it off again? There aren’t any low hanging limbs. So I didn’t let them cut it off again.”
It goes without saying that we didn’t own a saw. Didn’t even own a drill. What we owned turned out to be a bread knife. A dull bread knife. Scott whittled patiently away at the tree trunk for about an hour, periodically looking up at me and mouthing “Why would I want to cut it off again?” Finally, a sufficient amount of trunk had been removed, and we stood the tree up and added lights.
My mother, worried about our first Christmas, had mailed us a tiny live tree with ornaments for the twelve days of Christmas, had I but known. It was actually darling. Much more appropriate than my lotside purchase. But for a foray back into a tradition I didn’t really enjoy, things could have gone much worse. Besides the running joke the experience engendered, all we wrecked was the bread knife. Indeed, we couldn’t get rid of that right away, so for months after Christmas, we could find that knife by opening the drawers and sniffing for pine.