If it’s Thanksgiving weekend and you’re reading this by the glow of your Christmas tree lights, then you won’t understand.
My family is not one to eat the turkey and trim the tree in the same weekend. We like to push the envelope around here.
We have our own tradition, which is that is that we wait until the Christmas aisles in the drugstore are packed up to make way for boxes of Valentine’s candy before we finally pick out the tree.
The thing is, we’ve always chosen it together. We’d drive home with the tree strapped to the car, on, perhaps, a brisk December evening, and I’d turn on seasonal music, they’d move furniture, I’d pour drinks, they’d tarp the floor, I’d make food, they’d bring in the tree, my husband would pull out the ShopVac, and everyone would scatter.
It was a sweet and manageable tradition when the kids were all younger, but it’s getting to be increasingly more difficult.
It’s not that we venture to a tree farm in the Carolinas and chop it down ourselves. We just try to find an hour that we all agree on, and that is challenging enough.
Each year, the kids are further away from home and arrive later in the month of December, and each year around the 17th, I launch a frantic campaign of texts and WhatsApps designed for us to choose a three-hour time slot during which we can convene for the annual (ahem) tree-dition.
Last year, the appointed day was Dec. 23. We knew that the tree-nabbing window was quickly closing and we were cutting it dangerously close and that pickins would most likely be slim, but we were fortified by the memory of the Tanenbaum of 2004, a 12-foot-tall beauty which we bought at Home Depot on Christmas Eve for 10 bucks.
But last year, you may recall, was an especially wet one near Christmas, not the ideal conditions for peddling holiday greenery, and when we finally set out at 7 p.m. to our favorite tree lot (three-quarters of a mile from our house), we were stunned to find that the lot was completely closed. There was nary a pine needle in sight. We drove to the next one down the street, and it, too, was closed. Then, mild panic set in. We called Costco. No trees. Walmart. No trees. Home Depot.
Yes, there were a few left.
We drove in the rain to the tarped lot, where another forlorn family was picking in the rubble.
On one side of the tent was a pile of trees, flopped on their sides, sacked out like a group of diehards on the final night of a three-day music festival.
We picked through the pile, searching for a suitable tree. They were all soaked and puny, supposedly a bargain at $30. We each scouted around the debris as I got the sinking feeling that I would have to create a facsimile that season using a bicycle pump and some green felt.
My son eyed a possibility in the midst of the pack and picked it up with one hand, giving it a little shake while needles tinkled to the ground like they did for Charlie Brown’s tree. The tree-lot guy agreed to 10 bucks for it (basically $2.50 a foot), and we took it home and mounted it on a stool.
It held approximately 1/154 the amount of ornaments we had, which meant that we decorated it in 15 minutes, and — even better — a few weeks later, it came down in an hour.
Now I know the appeal of a tabletop tree.
And now, I really do feel old.