Monday, December 22, 2008

O Tannenbaum



When we first got married, one of the things I was most excited about was picking out our very first Christmas tree. It seemed there was a Christmas tree lot on every corner, so we had plenty to choose from. It was early December when we first went searching. Cold, snowy, starlit, romantic--just like in the movies. I donned a vibrant scarf and knit beanie for the occasion.

The first lot we stopped at had trees starting at $45. FORTY FIVE DOLLARS! And those were the small ones! Beautiful firs, green and lush, but only about 5 feet high. We were poor newlyweds back then and $45 was about our entire Christmas shopping fund, so that would never work. We stopped at the next place. Their trees were hijacked from some oxygen deprived, north-facing mountainside, I am pretty sure. They weren't firs at all, but some kind of pea green scrawny pine. A branch here, a tuft of needless there. Pitiful. They looked like the kind of tree a Grinch would have. I'm not sure how much they cost because we turned around and left pretty fast. We stopped at the next place and found their trees were decent, but more expensive than the first place. Eventually we got too cold to keep searching and stopped off at the local Albertsons to get some hot chocolate mix. There in the parking lot they were selling Christmas trees. Actually, it wasn't even in the parking lot. It was on the sidewalk right up against the front windows. Big piles of them all crammed together. Nobles here, Douglases there, and on the end the beautiful Grand Firs. And they were all about half as expensive as the tree lots. It wasn't exactly the romantic tree-choosing episode I had envisioned. Instead, here I was climbing on top of piles of trees under the bright florescent lights of the Albertsons parking lot along with half a dozen other cheap-skate tree buyers. Like masses of ants digging for crumbs in a pile of grass clippings. Soon we found a winner. A 7 foot, $29 Noble Fir. Beautiful, full, green, fragrant--everything a Christmas tree should be. So it wasn't an ideal selection process....but it was an ideal tree.

We saved ourselves the trouble, in subsequent years, by heading straight to the Albertsons pile-o-trees. But then, two years ago, the pile mysteriously failed to appear. We went the rounds at other grocery, hardware stores, and independent lots, and just couldn't accept the size, quality, or prices we found. The season was growing later and we still had no tree. It was then that we first considered an artificial tree. And by "considered" I mean that Big Daddy's begging me as he had every year since we got married to please, for the love of all that was holy, just-give-up-my-romantic-notions-about-real-trees-and-get-a-fake-one finally worked. But it was already into the second week of December and we weren't sure just what, if anything, we'd find at the stores. And it killed me to think of spending hundreds of dollars on a plastic tree. But at this point, I didn't see many options.

Our first stop was Target. The Christmas tree section was picked pretty clean. Though a dozen sample trees stood lit and decorated, the shelves were quite bare. After a few minutes, we saw a display tree that we both really liked. Very real looking, a nice ashy green, not brazenly dark and waxy like some of the others. It had pine cones. It was scratchy like a real tree. You had to get right up close to tell that it wasn't real. It was pre-lit. And it was even on clearance. Marked down to $79 from the original $250! But we couldn't find one in a box on the shelf. We called over a salesperson and were told that they were all sold out. Our faces fell. And I don't know if the salesperson felt sorry for us or if they were just that eager to clear the Christmas section, but she told us we could take the sample tree if we wanted. Let me get this straight. We can take the one that is already set up? No putting it together at home, filling out the smooshed branches, figuring out how to get the light strings together? Um, Sold! Next we found two of the hugest Rubbermade bins you've ever seen to store the tree in (of course the display tree's box was long gone), and lugged our beautiful, fake tree to the front of the store. There we were met with another surprise--because ours was he display tree, it was half off. So, our expensive, real-looking, prelit fake tree ended up costing us $42.59 including tax. Now to figure out how to get that tree home in the Mini Cooper.

In the end, Big Daddy drove home and swapped the Mini out for our SUV and came back to pick up me and the tree. We drove home with our artificial proudly strapped to our roof. At least I was proud. Were we posers? Maybe. But it was my last time to make that drive, with a Christmas tree strapped to my roof.

This is the third December since we got our fake tree, and I now take solace as I'm fluffing my fake tree's wire limbs in the fact that its needles don't litter my carpet all month, that my tree looks as lovely when I take it down in January as it did when I put it up in December, that the branches are all sturdy and hold up my ornaments without drooping, and that I'm not covered in sap from putting it up and taking it down. But deep down inside, I still long for the good old days of starlit nights, snowy drives, and a grocery store sidewalk piled with fresh Christmas trees.

11 comments:

rachel said...

I never thought I would like a fake tree, but this is our fifth or sixth year of ours and I LOVE it :)

Jen said...

We have yet to make the purchase of a fake tree. I think we will next year, or maybe the after Christmas sales. As much as I love the real trees, with our tradition of a new ordiment on the tree every year for us and one for our kids our tree is going to need to be nice, and then we will get a smaller one for the kids each year. :)

rychelle said...

this is the reason i feel very fortunate that my grandfather sends me a tree every year. it's super fresh and free! you can't beat that.

merry christmas!

Tiffany said...

I prefer fake trees, but I love real fingernails. Go figure. You are an amazing storyteller. Thanks for keeping me constantly entertained!

P.S. You have a Mini? I'm mildly covetous.

tiburon said...

Love me my fake tree - great story though. I like that I can hear your voice in my head as I read it.

Kristine said...

I love this story! How romantic going out to pick up a tree :) You got a steal on your tree!! We just bought our first big artificial tree a couple of years ago and I love it too!!

Melissa said...

Great story! Our first years of marriage we SPECIFICALLY chose the ugliest, loneliest, charlie brown tree. It was our tradition!
Now, I'm all about the fake!

Chelsea said...

Growing up, we always had a real tree. Eric and I bought a fake one two years ago, but this year we decided to get a real one anyway. It's just not the same to me with the fake one. And I'm told getting a real one is better for the environment, so that helps me justify it in my head. :D

Tanja said...

I love it fake, no mess and easy clean plus you can drag it out whenever you're ready to! You'll see!

jennie w. said...

I love the tradition of going and chopping down the tree. if I'm not going to do that than I'll just go with a fake. I hate how the tree only smells good for about 3 hours. Then it's petrified and a huge fire hazard.
And let's not talk about what a pain it is trying to water the thing. And cleaning up after you throw it outside in January.

André said...

It will be nice to have a tree that looks like grownups helped decorate it...