Wednesday, December 13, 2006


When I started dating Darcy, little did I know that every year, if we had the means, we were obligated to make a pilgrimage. So on a cold December morning, we piled into the car, faced east, and began our odyssey.

We crossed the river without incident, and as the strip malls gave away to farms, churches and intermittent houses, I finally broke down and asked, "Where the hell are we? I don't remember any of this from last year."

"We're almost there," she said. And, on cue, Millstadt loomed ahead of us. We made the appropriate turns and were soon at our destination -- the tree farm. Hundreds of acres of green, living trees, all eagerly awaiting some saw-wielding maniac to cut them down, drag them across town and into his living room - where the tree gets revenge by filling the air with enough pollen to make flowers quiver in anticipation.

Upon reflection, I realized why I didn't recognize where we were -- I was distracted last year. But this year, I was prepared. The night before, I borrowed my mother's minivan. If we were going to act like suburbanites, then by God, we were going to look the part!

The minivan fit in nicely with all the few pickup trucks and other vans that dotted the lot; we grabbed a saw from the counter and piled into a van with a family of four and off we went to the trees.

Climbing out of the van, the driver warned us: "Do all the cutting you want before you hand the tree off. We will not cut it for you back there. Y'all understand?" Satisfied with the nods and grunts, he released us into the wild.

The flashbacks started shortly thereafter. "How about this one?" "No." "That one?" "No. It has a bald spot."

"The needles are dying."

"It's not tall enough."

"It's not wide enough."

It became apparent to me that Darcy and my father would have been kindred spirits, and that's a wonderful thing. I now accept the fact that I shall never truly understand the mind of a tree aficionado. But next year, I'm bringing the hand and foot warmers.

Back at the front of the lot, after they wrapped the tree, one of the workers asked if we wanted help taking it out to our car. I bit back the "Where the fuck were you last year?" that almost sprung out of my mouth. It's good to see the filters still work.

I lugged the tree to the van and heaved it into the back. We were off to my house, where the tree would be residing this year.

Despite a small list to the left, the tree fit perfectly in the corner of the living room. I popped Superman Returns (re-review coming soon) into the DVD player - good Christmas-tree-decorating movies are vital to the operation, and got my decorate on.

Tree decorating is not something I come by naturally. Generally, I just look at a tree and say "Perfect! Just as God wanted it!" However, I freely admit that I could be a little hazy on God's plan, so I obeyed the decorating master and began putting ornaments on the tree. I began worrying that the tree was full, but my folly was pointed out to me; apparently, I am not yet ready to snatch the ornament from the master's hand.

And I'll be damned if we didn't hang that last box full of ornaments onto this (admittedly huge) tree.

So now the tree is decorated, and we're all ready for the holidays. I might complain about lugging the tree across town and into the house, but at night, when the twinkling lights cast a calming spell over the room, I'm willing to admit it's worth the effort.

But don't worry; I'm still going to complain about it next year.

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