M. Giant's
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Friday, January 09, 2004  

O Tannenbomb

I had good intentions when we bought our real Christmas tree this year. I really did. I was going to keep it watered and pay attention to it and love it and hug it and pet it and call it George. I didn't want a repeat of last year, when I kept forgetting to water the tree and by the time I dragged its desiccated remains out to the yard it was so dry that it would burst into flames with a harsh word. I wanted to avoid that this year. And I did. It was worse.

See, back at the end of November, when we bought the tree, I was envisioning the removal of a moist, green fir from my living room a month and a half later. I was half right. I didn’t know the cat was going to turn up diabetic. When he did, I got all caught up in making sure he was getting fed and injected properly. The tree sort of slid onto the back burner (which is a figure of speech, because the thing would have gone up like a box of fireplace matches if it came into a burner's line of sight). I think Strat will agree that I made the right call.

On thing about the tree we bought; it didn't turn yellow. It retained its fresh, verdant color even while going through a process that turned humans into redshirted piles of baking soda on that episode of Star Trek. The first sign of trouble didn't come until we started removing ornaments. At that point, the slightest brush would cause needles to flake off the branches as if they'd been dipped in liquid nitrogen. And yet they held their color, even as they formed a solid green circle on the ugly beige carpet below.

Normally, taking the lights off the tree is a major task. I like having a tree bright enough to read by; hence it generally has a few hundred lights on it. Excuse me—a few hundred strings of lights. I like to illuminate each individual pine needle, you see. This caused some domestic tension two years ago, which was the last year with our old permanent tree. The de-lighting had fallen to Trash for some reason, and she was distinctly unimpressed with the quasi-Gordian techniques I'd used. She ended up using pliers, wire cutters, and hedge trimmers. And when she was done with me, she finished taking the lights down.

With a real tree, you don't have to worry about bending or breaking branches. That can even facilitate the process. Here, my life was made easier by my ability to snap off branches that were as thick, yet as brittle, as Mickey Rooney's femur. Kind of a shame that Trash had bothered to clean up the needles in between the ornaments and the lights. The new circle, she be unbroken.

Reaching into the very center of the tree to unravel the lights I'd wrapped around the trunk was a little dicey. It was like giving CPR to a cactus. And all of the sap left in the tree ended up on my hands, which, combined with the innumerable little scratches I'd sustained, made it look as if I'd tried to bathe one of the cats in molasses.

By the time I was finished, there were large sections of the tree that were entirely bald. It was more Charlie Brown than Charlie Brown's tree, and at seven-and-a-half feet, it was like a monument to mortality. The tree stand still held it upright, which was the only thing that kept it from looking like a small-scale replica of the Tunguska site. Instead, it looked like a free-standing central nervous system. "Hey, kids, it's time to decorate the Christmas spinal cord! Don't forget to get ornaments on all the ganglia!"

Last year after taking the tree down I picked up a grocery bag full of fallen needles and branches. This year there were two bags, plus whatever got sucked up into the shop-vac. I imagine I could use them to create some kind of incendiary device, but there are need-to-have things, and there are nice-to-have things.

Anyway, this big old tree that weighed something like fifty pounds when I wrestled it into the house on Thanksgiving weekend tipped the scales at about a pound and a half when I strolled back out with it, one hand jauntily around the mid-trunk region. It's in the back yard, next to the chiminea. I should probably cover it up in case the sun comes out. The thing's probably more flammable than a vampire at this point.

But I swear, next year I'm totally going to keep on top of the tree-watering. Strat might turn into a four-footed sugar cube, but he'll understand.

Today's best search phrase: "How to console someone with hyperthyroidism." Finally, something I can help out with. Try saying something like this: "You know, people spend so much money on makeup to draw attention to their eyes, but you don't have to because of the way yours bug out now." No need to thank me. I'm just glad to be able to give back a little.

posted by M. Giant 2:43 PM 0 comments


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