One of our favorite things to do once Thanksgiving is over is to enjoy our annual holiday viewing of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. This seems to get us in the right frame of mind for our next favorite holiday activity…cutting our own Christmas tree. We normally wait at least a week after Thanksgiving before getting our tree, but last year we realized that a freshly cut tree lasts much longer than you think it will so we figured we should get it sooner and enjoy it longer. While a forest tree is not as lovely and symmetrical as a tree you select from a tree lot, you get a lot more exercise when you do it our way. Besides, at $10 a tree, it is quite a bargain anyway you saw it.
When it’s cold, we often pull into the forest, find the first semi-sort-of-okay-but-admittedly-totally-Charlie-Brown-tree, cut it down, and take off. With 50 degree temperatures today, though, we were unencumbered by inclement weather so we sauntered, letting several perfectly acceptable trees stand firm while we looked for something a little better. At one point, I had wandered off in my own direction alone when I spotted IT, a reasonably full number in blue spruce. Steve was nowhere nearby and although I had the saw in hand I felt I should acquire a second opinion, so I called out to him.
“Marco!” I yelled in his general direction. Although I couldn’t see him, I knew he would get the message. No response. I yelled again. Louder this time.
“Polo,” came the faint response.
When he was near enough that I could see him clearly, I yelled again.
“Over here! I need your opinion.”
The tree was very close to another tree, which usually is a bad sign, but it was tall and still very full. When Steve arrived I asked him to find the one I was thinking about. When he picked it right out, I knew I was onto something. We went over and inspected it. It was taller than our usual tree, but I thought we could make it work. We checked the base of the tree (it can’t be more than 6 inches in diameter if you want to cut it) and determined we were good to go. We’d have to cut off the lower portion and bring it back with us, but we still felt it was manageable so Steve began to cut. He kept cutting. He kept cutting some more. Dang. This was taking way too long.
“Do you want me to work on it for a while?” I asked, trying not to sound impatient but being really impatient.
“I’m fine,” he said as he started working on it again.
It was still taking what seemed like forever. Either the saw was worthless or we were having operator issues, I thought.
“Where is Charles Ingalls when you need him?” I quipped.
Steve shot me a look and made some reference to the notion that a proper spouse would be supportive. Clearly, he did not think my comment was nearly as amusing as I thought it was. For the record, I thought it was both appropriate and pretty dang funny. (Also, I know I’m not a proper spouse.)
When he had gotten about 5/6ths the way through the trunk, he was starting to slow down from the overexertion. I offered to take over. In less than a minute, compared to his ten, the tree fell over.
“See. And that is how it’s done,” I said as I quickly stepped out of his reach so he could not throttle me.
Once it was on the ground and no longer standing directly beneath a Ponderosa pine that was more than twice its size, our tree seemed a bit bigger. We tried not to trouble ourselves with this detail and got to work making it manageable for the trailer ride home. When we got back to the car, we were relieved to see our tree was roughly the same size as the one our friends had cut down. No worries.
Then, we got the tree home and off the trailer. That was when we started to suspect that we might have a problem. You know how sometimes you take more food than you’re actually going to be able to eat because your eyes are bigger than your stomach is? Well, I began to wonder if we’d had similar problems sizing up this forest tree to the realistic size of our living room. We leaned it up against the house. It was huge. I told Steve that, ala one of my favorite scenes from Christmas Vacation, someone was going to ask us where we thought we would put a tree that big. We got out the tape measure. It was 15 feet tall. While a 15 foot tree can easily fit in our living room with the 18 foot ceiling, it cannot fit in a tree stand that can only support a 12 foot tree. Steve cut off a few more feet while I walked around muttering, “little full, lot of sap.” With that last cut, however, we found that now the bottom appeared sparse and uneven so we omitted a couple extra feet to balance it out. Voilà.
Now, not only do we have the perfect Christmas tree, but we also have several decent starter logs for our fire pit as well as an attractive section of log Steve hopes to fashion into a comely centerpiece for our dining table. We got all this for the low, low price of an Alexander Hamilton. As I sit here inhaling the beautiful forest scent with my kleenex by my side (did I forget to mention that three of the four of us are allergic to evergreen trees?), I’m feeling confident that we chose the right tree. Now I just have to make sure Uncle Lewis doesn’t stand too near to it with his stogey.