Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Big Game Hunters

Every year around this time, I start to feel kind of manly. Michael will come home some December evening and hear, "Well, honey, I think it's about time." He readily agrees and after a nice supper, we pack it into the car, grunt a bit, and head to Home Depot to bag the big one. Our Christmas tree. As my mom said last night, I am defintely my father and my grandfather's child/grandchild. They always wanted the big ones, and so do I now.

Now, to be fair, it hasn't always been to Home Depot. In Boston, we used to hit a little tree stand outside of IHOP. In Acton, we bought a tree from the Lions Club. In Centreville, much to my chagrin, we had an artificial tree. But now that we're here, well, you can bet your life on the fact that we've got a real house and we're getting a real tree. And they seem to be growing. Home Depot has been very, very good to us, tree-wise. They never seem to run out, and I've even helped Judy get a tree there twice at the last minute, which is great.

I'm no longer contented with some placid little six foot tree. I like a big one. I like it "branchy" and "full" and TALL. I don't want to dwarf my tree or be able to touch the top of it without a stepladder or a chair. No, no, no. Last year's was a monster. 8 feet tall, very nice. But this year, I was determined to outdo even that.

This weekend is the tree trimming time. It's early, and I don't know how I'll feel about it, because I never have a a tree up this early. But I wanted A Good One, so sacrifices had to be made. Plus, the crew is coming down to bake all day on Saturday, so we'll decorate at the same time.

So, Michael and I headed out last night. I could feel the blood pumping as we headed to the store, "Gonna bag me a big one!" coursing through my brain. And then, a dose of reality. We pulled up to the store and their nursery was locked up for the night. "Oh no!" I said, and Michael was unhappy about it to, but we decided we might as well go on inside and find out what was what.

We went inside and headed out to the nursery and you could get in from outside. Bingo. We were in like sin. And then as we headed for the trees, an older fellow (like in his mid to late 60's) came up to us, and I knew this was the year. "Looking for a tree, are you, madam?" he said in a perfect, clipped British accent.

I had found Paradise by Home Depot. The British practically invented Christmas, well except for Jesus and God and all that, and of course, I'm a sucker for a British accent anyway, and I love England and everything about it.

"Yes we are," I replied, flashing him a dazzling smile as he sized up me and the General.

"What kind of tree are you after, then?"

Michael took the lead on this one, since he was well aware of my requirements. "She wants a big one, chief."

"Well, we've got your eight and nine footers over this way."

"I think we only have 8 foot ceilings," I said.

"Well, you'll want an eight footer then, I expect."

I nodded in agreement.

"Right this way."

So we tromped off, like a safari team, ready to find and bring down the biggest of the herd.

We struck gold on our first attempt. A beauty of an 8 foot Frazier fir, very branchy, nice and full, no big holes, pretty fresh, not a lot of shedding. Steve grabbed it and gave it a good shake, complimented us on our choice and said he'd cut an inch off the bottom and wrap her up for us. Sounds fine, so we all strolled over to the cutting and netting area, ready to grab our catch. But all was not well in Treeville.

"Dear oh dear," said Steve. "This tree's trunk is split, come have a look."

I went into THE RESTRICTED AREA and looked. Steve showed me where the truck was indeed split from the bottom up about 4 inches. It wasn't a very deep split, but he looked at me and asked, "Do you reckon that's a problem?" (I L-O-V-E love when British people say 'reckon' since I associate it with such a rednecky kind of word here, but they make it sound so posh.)

We pondered the situation and finally I said, "Well, I suppose you could cut off that much of the trunk."

Steve was disappointed in me. "Aww, but then you lose some of its glorious height."

"True, true."

"We'd best have another look around."

So, I collect up the General again, and we go back on the floor. He and I head in the direction of the balsams, but didn't have much luck. Steve reappears. "You head over that way, and I'll look over here." So we headed around one corner and he heads around the other. Michael and I are pulling trees out, he's giving them the obligatory fluffing of the branches to the ones I think might be good prospects, when suddenly Steve pops up again.

"I think I've got one for you," he says. And I know, I just know, Steve hasn't let me down.

We tromp over to another section of trees and Steve pulls out a dandy. Nine towering feet of beautiful green, lush balsam. "Wow!" I said, the stars in my eyes, "what do you think, honey?"

Michael fluffs up the branches, and he can't reach around the tree, a key requirement. Seriously, the tree was like 4 1/2 feet across. We declared it a winner.

"I'll just shave an inch or two off the bottom, then, and you put it in water straight away when you get home." Roger, Steve! "I hope you haven't got a convertible!" We assure him that we do not and he disappears, comes back with a hand truck, and cuts, nets, and hoists the tree onto the cart. He leads us to the cashier, and I am puffed up like I won the lottery, the General is quite pleased with our selection, and we head up to pay, and Steve has lost the price tag in the branches. So he disappears to find the price and I think, "Well, that's that, we'll never see him again", particularly when he radios up the SKU and we check out. Michael and I each grab a side of the hand truck and go outside. I tell him I'll be right back and I go to get the car while he holds down the fort.

I roar up, throw a blanket on top of the car to keep it from getting scratched, and we're just about to throw the tree up on top of the car, and are considering it due to the fact that the thing is quite heavy, when Steve reappears.

"I suspected you could do with a bit of help."

Right you are, Steve.

"Yes, thank you!" So I go around the back of the car and pull out my bungee cords, the same cords I've been using for the past 3 years to haul trees and Steve looks at me with total dismay and says, "No bungees, madam" and shakes his head sadly. And I note that in his hands he has the biggest roll of twine I've ever seen.

"We're going to tie it down, then?" I ask helpfully. He shakes his head affirmatively, and begins to whistle "Here We Come A-Wassailing" as he singlehandedly picks that tree up and hurls it onto the car. Then he starts to inspect the underside of the car and shakes his head forlornly there there's nothing to tie his twine to. God help us, he finally zeroes in on the rearview mirrors and begins happily tying away. Then, he does a loop across and through the back doors, and then around the gate door in the back. I inspect his work as he goes and finally I boldly declare, "You must have been in the navy! You know your way around a knot." to which he replies, "It comes in handy a time or two." Then, he runs into a knot and he needs some assistance. He says, "Madam, may I borrow your finger?" I don't know why, but that just cracked me the hell up.

Finally, it's roped on there, and I grab Michael and lead him to the car and tell him to get in carefully. Steve says, "Well, I hope you can get in after all that, and a Merry Christmas to you!" and disappears into the store.

I drove home feeling as shiny as a new penny and then we had to get out and get the tree in. Took some doing, but we got it off the car and hauled it inside. We get her in the tree stand after managing to maneuver around the dining room table and all, I stand it up, and of course, scratch up the ceiling. Yeah, I don't have room for a nine footer.

So, I head out to the shed and grab my pruning shears and give the tree a little haircut on top. It fits, so long as we don't try to put the angel up on top, which is going to happen one way or another. I may have to give it another little shave, we'll have to see.

'Tis a beaut, though, probably the biggest we've had since The Squirrel Tree (which I am sure I have blogged about in the past, but I can't find the post right now). There is still twine wrapped around my mirrors, which I'll remove today. The house smells so great, my favorite thing about balsams, and this weekend she'll be decked out in her finery! I'll post pictures then.


The emails are rolling in, I sent out pictures of the tree naked for my fellow revelers who will be here at Christmas to see.

Mom: Tis a beautimous tree and I can’t wait to see it!!

Dad: Looks great, Kate. I can't wait to see it live.

Joe: Holy Merry Christmas! Susan you are truly a Christmas Ham! :)


Oh, what the hell. Here's a picture of it au naturale.

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