Friday, December 3, 2010

A Little Bit of Christmas Spirit

Today on the phone, my mother informed me they had gotten a Christmas tree. This immediately sparked the question: “It’s not as bad as last year’s tree, is it?”  See last year, my parents decided they would partake of nature’s bounty by venturing into the mountainous woods of Colorado to chop down their own tree. Fueled by hearty enthusiasm, they set off to the forest, intent on bringing home a little piece of Colorado to warm our hearth. Unfortunately, “nature’s bounty” proved elusive, for what came home was a little more sparse than spruce. Though I wasn’t there, I can only imagine the conversation that prompted them to make such a rash decision choosing our tree. I imagine it went something like this, 

Mom: “This is fun, we’re gonna cut down a tree-- we don’t need the girls here!”
Dad: Laughs
Mom: “I wish we had some grandkids”
Dad: Begins to look off into the distance, somewhere in the echoing expanse plays the haunting chorus from Fiddler on the Roof “Sunriiiise, Sunset, Swiftly flow the days….” 
Mom: “Maybe we should set one of the girls up wi-”
Dad: “THIS ONE! THIS TREE RIGHT HERE!” Begins sawing it down.

And that’s how we ended up with a tree that even Charlie Brown would look down on. 

When I came home to help decorate what I thought was going to be a tree, I was understandably shocked. My dad had tried to warn me on the phone saying, “Now it’s a little thinner than some of the trees we’ve had before. It’s a mountain tree.” Unfortunately that description did little to prepare me for what I saw when I stepped through the front door.
I took one look at it and said,  “Where’s the tree?”
Mom: “Well...that is the tree.”
I pointed at it in disbelief, “That?! There are barely enough branches to make a WREATH!” 

After I collected myself, I managed to pose a question, “So, mom… many other trees did you pass by before settling on this particular tree?”

Dad: “Plenty.” 

Me: “Are you sure they were trees, not, you know, pine cones?”
 At that point, though they were laughing, my parents still felt compelled to explain their choice. My mom offered the justification that it, “looked different in the woods.” 
My sister, who had been silently shaking her head in the corner, piped in with “Did it look like a real tree then?” 

Their defense of the tree is something I can only attribute to classic underdog syndrome, some people are just hardwired to root for the down-and-outs. My dad defended it for a good 40 minutes, claiming it just needed some decorations. After positioning it at an angle that hid the more gaping bald patches, we set about putting lights on the tree. Unfortunately the addition of lights did little to mask the raw material. (It’s the classic pig-in-a-dress scenario, you can put it in a dress, but it will always be a pig).  In fact, the lights seemed to comically highlight our predicament: 

Refusing to lose hope, mom and dad insisted that putting on the ornaments would make all the difference. Unfortunately, the thin mountain air produced equally thin branches, which would bend completely under any kind of ornamental weight. But even after the young sapling dropped a few of our more mediocre ornaments, my dad still steadfastly defended it. The turning point came, however, when dad attempted to grace the tree with one of the ornaments from his “special horn collection”. See, somehow we’ve managed to collect a bunch of ornaments that look like this:
Most people would streamline the horn collection into say one or two...or just one.  But for some reason dad has developed a particular fondness for this variety of ornament. And for that reason, we are not allowed to throw any of the horns away. (Although they do take a lot of verbal abuse each year). So when one of the horns dropped onto the ground, emerging with a scratched bugle, the tree suddenly found itself without a defender. 

At that point, the gloves came off (along with a few more ornaments) and we effectively roasted our tree. When it came time to name it (as is our yearly tradition), we aptly settled on Karen Carpenter. It seemed appropriate at the time. Somehow, Karen made her way into our hearts that Christmas season-- maybe it was the rum-nog speaking, but we eventually came to appreciate her. We all agreed that, in her offbeat, unashamed ghetto-ness she was uniquely characteristic of our family (a family that once had a broken car window during a rainstorm and drove down the road with an umbrella sticking out the window hole). 

I think it brings to mind the idea that Christmas spirit is not about the tree, or what’s under it. Christmas spirit is about taking what you have and celebrating it with the people you love. (Even if you only have a quarter of a tree to celebrate with).  So with that in mind, Happy Holidays all-- and for those of  you thinking about cutting down your own tree, remember, “They look different in the woods!"


  1. So what is the tree's name this year? Our tree doesn't have a name. Maybe we will name it Joan Rivers.. since it's old and plastic too.

  2. LOL! Please name your tree that. I think the tree's name is Alejandro this year. He's in much better shape than Karen was.