Guest op-ed: Oh Christmas tree
Sometimes life hands you a moment of perfection. I don’t deal well with these moments at all. For example, one year we went to buy a Christmas tree. The first tree we saw was a perfectly proportioned spruce exactly the right height AND it was on sale! It was cut absolutely straight, so when we got it home, we had it up in two minutes flat. Happily, but a little blankly, we stood back to admire it.
“Don’t we have a pretty tree?” I asked my daughter inanely.
“Daddy didn’t say all those funny words like he did last year, did he?” she replied.
“Don’t worry, he’ll say them when we put the lights on.”
Only he didn’t say them. Nothing was tangled and everything worked. We began to feel uneasy. What calamity did fate have in store for us that we needed to be bolstered by this kind of perfection first?
No, we are much more comfortable with experiences like the one when we discovered that we could go to the mountains and cut down our own tree. Just like the olden days! Daddy (hereafter known as Pa) borrowed a saw, I (Ma) got the permit and we were all set.
After Thanksgiving weekend with my parents, we drove the five hours home, arriving tired, cramped and surly with two hours of daylight left.
“What do you think?” Ma asked. “I’m beat, but I hate to wait another whole week to get the tree.”
“Oh, let’s go get the stupid thing,” Pa said in his kindly way.
“I’m hungry,” said the young’un.
“Quit complaining and let’s go,” Ma snapped gently.
So, we drove up the twisty mountain road, and drove and drove and drove.
“Good grief, how far away is this place?” Pa joked.
“How should I know?” Ma advised.
“Are we there yet?” the young’un whined helpfully.
“Greeting cards have all been sent. The Christmas rush is thruuuuu,” Karen Carpenter informed us.
Eventually, we reached a large area of scrubland with a dilapidated sign informing us that this was the place.
“Aren’t there supposed to be trees around here?” asked Pa, squinting through the twilight gloom.
“I wanna carry the big saw!” the young’un yelped.
“NO WAY! Are you crazy???” Pa and Ma instructed.
We squelched through the mud, pausing now and then to examine some of the taller bushes.
“I’m cold,” the young’un whined stoically.
“Me too,” Ma said, setting an example of perseverance. “Pa! We’re freezing! Let’s get that ‘tree’ over there and go home.”
“I suggested that tree half an hour ago and you said it looked like a woodland tumor!”
“It’s beautiful. Let’s go.”
Pa began sawing manfully away at the trunk. The darkness thickened, the cold deepened.
“How’s it coming Pa?” Ma asked.
“Just swell. I think I’ve scratched the bark.”
“Well, put some muscle into it! Pa from the Little House books would have had a whole barn built by this time!”
“Bleeping bleep!” Pa snarled cheerfully.
It took two of us to carry it to the car.
“You carry the saw, young’un,” we counseled.
“Finally! Go get the rope.”
Eventually we got the thing home and set up at a 45-degree angle. A few days later, we found it lying horizontally on top of our smashed lucky German pickle ornament.
We took a long look at the bush. It was time to put our great American principles into action. Summoning our inner pioneer spirit, we waited until dark and snuck the bush into the dumpster on the next street. Then we nobly went to the grocery store and nobly bought a tree just as our ancestors had done before us.
Anneli Byrd is an academic adviser in Weber State University’s Student Success Center.