For most people choosing the family Christmas tree is a pleasant kick off to the holiday season. A chance for mom, dad, and the kids to gather on a crisp December morning, trek to rural tree farm or urban lot and cheerfully pick out the perfect tree. It is a time of happiness and reflection on memories of holidays past…for most people.
To call my wife a discerning shopper would be to mock the dictionary definition of the term. She will leave no stone unturned in her quest for getting the best deal possible be it shoes, clothes, household accessories, whatever. Mostly this relentless pursuit of getting what she perceives as the most bang for her buck works out pretty well for the both of us as it is good for the household budget and for 362 days of the year she is perfectly happy to indulge this obsession of shopping everything to within an inch of its life in a solitary fashion. She can prowl the malls and online retailers to her hearts content for hours, days, weeks on end before finally making a decision and I reap the benefits of such discrimination while pursuing my own obsession of finding the perfect cigar to go with two fingers of my favorite 18 year old single malt. For three days of every year however in the interests of getting into the holiday spirit I must enter her strange world of shopping, examining from every possible angle each fir, spruce, cedar or sequoia that has taken root in this county over the past ten years. Being that this is western Washington state, home of the largest swathes of coniferous forests in the world, this involves looking at more than a few trees.
“What do you think of that one?” she exclaims, well into our second day of the search while pointing in the general direction of what looks to me to be about five acres of densely packed identical Noble Firs. “It looks fine” I say innocently. “That won’t do” she says disgustedly as she knows all to well from past experience that my idea of buying a Christmas tree is to pick the first one that is generally conical in shape, cut it down, get it in the truck, and rush home to commence the smoking and drinking while she and the kids decorate said tree. After looking twenty or thirty trees up and down in a cold clinical manner she stops at one and says “Give me ten reasons why and ten why not this tree may or may not be the “perfect” tree”. I sigh and wonder if the dull saw provided by the tree farm has enough of an edge to reach the veins in my wrists. She mistakenly takes my sullen silence as disapproval of this particular tree rather than a building rage and our quest continues. Like a skip on a favorite album, this process repeats itself over and over for the next few hours until I want to lift the metaphorical album and turntable over my head and smash it into tiny pieces on the nearest hard surface. “Let’s ask those people over there what they think of this tree” she says merrily. At this point I snap and rushing over to the innocent family that she is determined to draw into her psychotic fantasy world shout, “Don’t listen to her! Don’t look at her!! Under no circumstances should you make eye contact with this crazy person!! Now go! RUN!! You’ll be glad later if you do what I say now!!! As they drag their frightened children away from the foaming wild-eyed man waving a dull saw in the air, I turn on my wife and start babbling incoherently about trees and cigars and record albums. Our two boys now regard us as threatening strangers. “What the hell is wrong with this tree right here?” I hear myself shouting as the family I have saved from this inescapable fun house gallery of mirrors dive into their SUV and disappear in a shower of mud and gravel.
“Fine… let’s just get this one and go” she says in “the voice”. You guys know the voice I’m talking about. I silently cut the perfect tree with the dull saw, load it up, and our annual holiday ritual is again complete. Somehow I am once again the crazy one, the kids are left wondering if maybe the stork made some sort of delivery error, and we are on our way home where my scotch and cigars await.
Next year I’m going to hunt and cut down one of those aluminum trees from Walmart with the red ball ornaments and a colored light wheel. Not exactly Norman Rockwell but it’s never too late to start a new tradition.