December 09, 2006

Yeah, i know...

As a child, I grew up in a house that had 14' ceilings. At Christmas time, that meant a 12-13' tree. I remember the hunt one year for the perfect christmas tree. A Blue Spruce if memory serves. Piling into the gray Buick rust bomb that seemed to get it's food in meager increments of a dollar way too often. As my mother navigated to nearly every tree lot in the city I looked out the window at the recently fallen snow. Warming myself in preparation for the next trek into tree land. All the trees seemed giant, and we must have looked at every tall tree on each lot. Each tree had a fatal defect. This one a gaping hole on one side at the base. This one with a critical ornament holding branch missing in the middle of the tree. That one has a faulty crown which was to hold the angel which crowned our tree each year.

I recall my feet being leaden with cold despite wearing my snow boots. Scarf, mittens, long johns, sweatshirt and jeans below my olive green parka completed the ensemble that was supposed to keep me warm. I didn't care if I was cold. I was Tree Shopping baby. It was like a quest for the holy grail except I didn't know what the holy grail was at that age. But this was the first step to getting Santa Claus to deliver the goods. Whether I was naughty or nice, the fat man in red and white always managed to deliver. Always managed to fill up the space under and aroud the tree.

Whether it was Tonka Toy Trucks, some kind of action figures, or a train set, I could count on waking up early on Christmas morning and Squealing that Santa had arrived and it being true. One toy leading to the next and another gasp of sheer glee. Here an Erector set, there a new set of Matchbox cars or an orange Hot Wheels track system (something I found made an effective spanking tool sometimes later that year). One year there was the complete Silver Streak train set that I'm sure is packed away somewhere in a basement waiting to be reborn.

As I dreamed of Santa and all his goodies we pulled into another lot. Dark was gathering and the temperature was falling faster than the sun in the western sky. Then soft cotton snowflakes began to fall in the still air. The electric yellow light of the street lamps glimmering off the puffy flakes that floated ever so softly out of the dark sky to lighten the ground. We followed the Tree Man who had a broad smile regardless of the faults we found with the trees. One after another rejected like a pile of cold green beans on the edge of a dinner plate.

Then I saw the tree. Hidden behind a couple of scraggly, nasty trees that wouldn't make the cut for anyone's Christmas except maybe Templeton the Rat in his second feature film, 'The Dump'. The color was right for the Blue Spruce we sought and it was probably three times my height. I cried out, "Over here." "Where?" came the return call. "I found it," I screamed. I had, I knew it as soon as I saw it. The perfect tree. The tree that had given itself so Santa might have a resting place for all his presents after he'd climbed down the chimney.

Soon I was surrounded by the Tree Man, my mother and nudged aside by my big brother. It was inspection time. Had I succeeded in finding the grail? Was the quest complete? The Tree Man said, "This is a grand tree." As he turned it in the light with the snow catching on my eyelashes I saw the price tag and my heart sank. I knew the price limit from the last lot with a potential tree. There were no flaws, every branch was perfect. Placed just so to hold the many ornaments that waited, nestled in boxes at home. The strings of popcorn and the antique looking lights. The handmade string globes and the scandinavian straw ornaments tied with red string and so many more. My shoulders drooped as I began to turn away.

"We need something a little cheaper," my mother said. I paused and glanced at the Tree Man to see his reaction. With a twinkle and flicker of eye toward me, he turned to my mother and said, "Ma'am, I'm pretty sure this is your tree. And I think it's priced wrong." With a quick flick of his wrist, the yellow tag joined the gathering flakes on the frozen ground. I looked at my mother to see her reaction. "No, I can't..." she started, her eyes going to the tree. "Merry Christmas," The Tree Man cut her off wth a broad smile. He began dragging the tree to the cutting stand to chop off the base. "I only have..." she tried again. "It's enough." He continued "Spirit of the season, you know?"

It took two long days of joy and love to trim that tree. Every ornament and strand of icicle placed with care to create a work of art. The little snowmen, the angels, the glass balls, the trumpets, the french horns, the wise men, the bells, the reindeer, the straw stars, the hummingbird, the cheesy little mirrorball that was my very own ornament to hang every year. The one I searched for just the right spot. Never in the front of the tree, but just off to the side where it would draw my eye. Every time I looked at that ball, I'd hear the Tree Man say, "Spirit of the season, you know?"

Yeah, I know...


At 12:23 AM, Blogger Buffalo said...

An excellent memory well told.


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