There's something poetic about trees, right? And Christmas, obviously. It makes me lapse, ever-so-slightly, into a cartoonish, quasi-Victorian vernacular. I can't help myself, but somewhere in the next few paragraphs, I just know I'll bust out with the phrase "And Lo".
It took me a few days to work up my Christmas nerve. This was to be our first at-home holiday. No ten-hour car-rides on the horizon, no myriad shopping trips or late-night wrapping excursions in order to complete our preparations just in time to leave town. Of course we'd had a tree before, but it was always a little bit of an afterthought. We'd decorate it, but since it wasn't the tree we'd be gathered around on Christmas morning, how special was it required to be? Our usual M.O. was to throw some ornaments up at the last minute and return from a two-week vacation to find the tree had celebrated the blessed day by promptly dropping all its needles on the wood floor. Fun!
Not this time, I told my husband. This is going to be a big old tree, with personality. This tree will have something to say. It will not be taken for granted. Wait-am I still talking about the tree? I imagined a flocked tree, puffy and white. Or a shiny gold disco tree with a glitter-ball topper. In the end, scent reigned supreme and we decided that a traditional Fraser Fir would smell most divine on Christmas morning. Especially, I added, when mingling with the scent of a new handbag, and p.s. I could also use some pajamas.
I believed it was in everyone's best interest for this "tree-getting"to be a Designated Family Outing, during which we all wore plaid and were photographed looking at once charming, a little self-deprecating, and deeply in love. Except, everybody was in a mood that week. Sometimes collectively, sometimes individually, but in every case, me especially.
Fine, I said. I decided I'd had it-I'd just do all my Christmas shopping from home in order to avoid interacting with humankind. I would sit at my desk, drink hot chocolate, and listen to the George Winston Winter Album until they pried my cold dead hands from the keyboard. After a while, this began to sound less like Bing Crosby and more like Seasonal Affective Disorder, so I put my coat on and hit the city--which involves driving through the barren fields to civilization; can you understand now why it's so hard?
I bought myself a sandwich that was not as good as I expected, but with Mariah Carey jingling on the FM, and a few flurries in the air, I was going to get Christmasy, come hell or bad music.
Then I rear-ended the guy in front of me.
Which didn't help my mood. Of course, I told everyone it happened when my boot slipped off the brake at an intersection, but what really happened was I looked down to pick a roasted vegetable out of my good-for-nothing sandwich and pop it in my mouth, when suddenly (at an intersection), my feet got confused and I was accelerating in a moment of temporary insanity. Brought on my gluttony.
Lucky for me I am used to these kinds of episodes. The guy got out of his car, just loaded for bear, to find lil' old me, looking unkempt and terrified but somehow benevolent in that harried housewife sort of way. I asked if he was hurt and he said yes he was; I then apologized and led him to the back of his car which was perfect on account of the caked-on-snow-buffer that had undoubtedly saved his bumper. He decided right then and there that his aforementioned pains were of no consequence, waved goodbye, and drove off with me yelling Merry Christmas after him like I was Tiny Tim.
And Lo, the hour of tree-buying was upon me. Just like that.