“Interviewing” trees at the local U-cut farm is a grueling process because, in order to be the crowning gem of a memorable holiday hoopla in our house, the tree must have sticky-out branches with the ability to unravel ugly sweaters, goose the cat, and make mischievous, merry, and bright well past the new year. Being able to belt out “Hot Stuff” karaoke style at midnight on New Year’s Eve, would be icing on the 7 ½-foot pine scented cake, but we just can’t get carried away with our expectations. One day, scientists will develop a “Loud Drunk Neighbor” variety and the world will rejoice. A Nobel Prize will be in order for that scientist, but until then, we just have to be patient.
In any case, every year Nate, Alex, and I wander around a tree farm, yelling “Marco-Polo,” when we get separated just two rows down and to the left of one another. After what seems like nearly three hours, I can watch Nate and Alex cut down a tree, while snapping pictures and asking, “Are we done yet?”
This year, once Nate and Alex get our tree tied snuggly to the roof of the car, I can tell that this one will be particularly spunky because it scratches and scrapes at the windows on the way home. When we pull into the driveway (which has no curb cuts, by the way), the car bounces and I see branches sliding down the back of the car.
“Oh, good—there we go. The tree has finally shifted,” Nate says.
I had no idea that “tree shifting” on the way home was a “thing.” I had no idea we were waiting for the tree to shift—as if it were “done—“ as if we had reached the moment when we could say, “Oh, yes! Now it’s ours because no one else will want it.”
The tree doesn’t actually fall from the car, though, and now Nate and Alex have to unravel it from the twine sweater they’ve knitted for it—a sweater, which has probably “shifted” in some way. That’s my cue then, to sit on the couch inside the house and wait another hour or so while Nate and Alex stay outside and wrestle the tree into its stand. I have no idea how this works, but I imagine this process might involve some kind of shoving, sawing, vegetable oil, and shouting, “Get in there, tree! Get in there! Come on!” At least, that’s how I’d do it.
While I wait, I watch the cat rub up against the branches and slowly move his tail back and forth. He likes what he thinks is his present. He clearly does not remember running into the tree last year, late at night when we were asleep and he basically re-enacted the blindfolded driving lesson scene from Taladega Nights. Our tree shook and swayed, but it remained strong. The cat, on the other hand, was so traumatized that he ran to our bedroom and meowed the story loudly in our ears, as if we couldn’t deduce the story already from the sounds we heard.
“I’ve met my match! I give up!” SeaTac meowed—and if we listened closely, we could hear the tree chuckling downstairs because we’d selected it based on its mischievous merry-making skills. So, yeah, the tree won that round. What did the cat expect?
This year, I suspect will be no different. I carefully eye the tree while Nate and Alex make cocoa. And then I see it. A lone branch, in the middle of the tree, appears to move on its own, just for a brief moment and I’m filled with hope. Live tree karaoke technology must be closer than we think.
Your Turn: What are your traditions for decorating during the holiday season? When it comes to the Christmas tree, for instance, we have a particular order: star first, then the lights, the wooden cranberries, smaller ornaments, larger ornaments, and then the icicles, which we bought years ago as singular tin hanging ornaments for individual branches. How about you?