This time of year is supposed to be all about peace. I wouldn’t mind a little of that. No, make that a lot. Put a one-way ticket home in every soldier’s stocking. Take all the military funds and purchase ploughshares, not stock-market shares. Plough under all the failed strip malls, strip mines and clear-cuts. Reforest our land. The returning troops and the unemployed could rebuild the United States, from potholes to playgrounds to honest politicians.
It’s not that I don’t want a MacBook Air, an iPhone and a sled full of other cool gizmos, but Verizon just sent me a free Android phone whose wonders I’ve barely begun to plumb. It’s not that I don’t want a hand truck or the coffee-table book “Vivian Maier: Street Photographer.” On any given day I could add something new to my stuff lust.
The truth is, I have everything I need, including a sled full of electronic gizmos. I have my sweetheart and our comfy home and our beloved pets. We are healthy and have jobs. We have caring family and friends. I have a new mess of books from the library.
I’ll settle for folding down the seats in my car, covering them with the old Army blanket and trundling off to get our tree. We have the worst luck with trees, but we keep trying. This is our fifth holiday season together. We’re kind of a comedy act around the tree, though.
The first year went fine. I flew from Oregon to Florida early in December and my sweetheart met me at the airport wearing a Santa hat. That was the zaniest, most festive gesture she could have made. Immediately, it really was the holiday season. We went to an outdoor stand all lit up with colored lights and got a beautiful, fresh tree. We loaded it with a bountiful supply of decorations.
By the second year, we had U-hauled me cross-country and were still unpacking. We didn’t have time, energy or space for a tree.
So for our third Christmas together, we went to a PTA fundraiser and found the most perfect tree I’ve ever seen. Should I mention my sticker shock at the cost of trees? I remember paying $15; now you can spend $85 on a tree. Yet, while my sweetheart was content with a mere 6-footer, I knew she’d always wanted a big one. She couldn’t stop smiling at the 9-footer I chose, not knowing what lurked within.
But, OK, my sweetheart is an old-fashioned girl and likes her trees, so we brought home this perfect tree, lugged it into the dining room and stood it up. A clump of mud fell to the floor. Except, was that mud? What was that? A cry went up from my ferocious femme: “It’s a mouse!”
It was indeed a mouse. A dead mouse fell out of our perfect tree. I removed the poor critter, but we were skeeved out. It was like finding a cockroach in your entrée: You lose your appetite.
Then, of course, it didn’t fit in the tree stand. We bought it a big sturdy stand. Somehow, we managed to control our gag reactions long enough to get it upright. Nevertheless, we had no desire to decorate it. So it stood in the dining room bereft and when the holiday cards arrived we used them as garland until we took it to the recycling center.
In our fourth year we were exhausted from a major surgery and marriage planning. We would be out of town for the holiday. We were a bit leery of the whole live-tree experience, but artificial wouldn’t do. No tree.
This year, I found a Groupon. Forty dollars for an $80 Douglas fir. How could we resist? Sure, we’d have to trek 45 minutes north to get it, but hey, this is the land of Mickey Mouse. The mouse lives, right?
Last Sunday we trekked. We scoped out the website, Google-mapped, GPSed, called ahead. We got up there and couldn’t find the darned place. Turns out, it was so tiny we passed right by. Some u-turning went on and we pulled up. The place was locked up, shut down, closed despite its Sunday hours.
We called, left a message, gave up. We came home determined. My sweetheart went up into the crawl space and slid tote after tote of decorations down the ladder to me. Our home is adorned with many-hued totes. Will we get to empty them this year?
All I want for Christmas is to see my sweetheart smile when we light up our tree.
Lee Lynch’s newest novel, “Beggar of Love,” is available at local booksellers and online.