O Christmas Tree

There are certain family activities where the Rockwellian image rarely meets the reality. Such is the case with picking out a Christmas tree. Every year I create a tableau in my imagination: the Schencks working in concert with one another, humming fa la la’s, while collectively deciding between a fraser or a douglass fir. The boys, overtaken by the spirit of Christmas, call a truce to all bickering; the smell from a nearby chimney fills the air; a stranger hands us each a steaming mug of mulled cider; carolers serenade us. Life is good, we’re the perfect family, and Christmas is indeed “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Then we actually go out and get the tree. There’s whining (“It’s too cold”), arguing (“He picked out the tree last year”), and all-around grinchiness. None of which helps prepare anyone for the birth of the Christ child.

Tonight was the first night of my parish’s annual Christmas tree sale. The boys did fine — they played, they raced around, they generally stayed away from the chain saw. Perhaps my threat to run them through the netting machine and throw them onto the roof of the mini van if they misbehaved was an effective deterrent.

I always feel slightly pathetic just buying a tree. For years I told Bryna I was going to cut down my own tree. What self-respecting guy doesn’t imagine himself as a modern-day Paul Bunyan this time of year? But I’ve never actually done this; I don’t think I even own a saw. Luckily I’ve been off the hook for a number of years because when your parish hosts an annual tree sale, you can’t go looking elsewhere for a tree. It doesn’t work that way – I won’t be bargain shopping and trying to haggle down the Methodists or the Presbyterians. We always buy our tree at All Saints’. And we do have the best trees around – they’ve come from a small tree farm in Pennsylvania for at least the past 20 years. No one’s ever complained about a bad tree from All Saints’. It may have something to do with the way they’re carefully farmed but I think it’s because I bless them every year. So I take the credit.

Well, we have our tree and it’s a beauty. We’ll get it decorated in the next week or so. I just look forward to the day when they’ll be able old enough to string the lights.


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