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Thursday, December 15, 2011  

O Tannenbomb

It was some years ago when we started getting real Christmas trees. I'd like to say that the impetus for the change was that Trash finally got tired of my insistence on calling our old fake tree a "permanent tree," but I suspect that the real reason has something to do with the fact that the last year we had it, I strung 32,500 lights on it in Gordian tangles designed to illuminate every single needle, but which made it impossible for Trash to de-light it in a day's time without ripping out several of the fake branches. She was pretty irritated about that, and we had a standoff. I said I wasn't going to allow any shadows on our Christmas trees in the future, and she said that in that case she wasn't going to spend the entire week of New Year's trying to untangle the lights from it without wrecking it. At this point she was in such a severe state of post-holiday letdown that I was afraid she was going to throw her wire-cutters and hacksaw at me, so I agreed that we would get real trees forevermore.

As a result, M. Edium has never had a Christmas without a real tree in the house. He's used to the whole routine, from driving to the tree lot four blocks away, to picking out the perfect-shaped tree that somehow always looks shorter under the open sky, to the twining of it to the roof of our car for the short drive home, to the wrestling of it inside and the ceremonial marking-up of the ceiling, to the annual battle with the Christmas tree stand, which gets its annual drink of water.

But this year, he wanted a tree in his own room as well.

Trash and I weren't entirely on board with this, because his room's not that big. It's basically a narrow L from the doorway, with bookshelves on your right and his dresser and massive bunk bed dominating the left, leaving a passage so narrow that Trash and I can't get past each other in it. It's basically a galley bedroom.

But he insisted, and Trash figured out how to make space in his bedroom, and soon we were back home with a tall, full, symmetrical tree half an inch taller than our living room, and the shortest tree on the lot. We were expecting to get a Charlie Brown tree, but they didn't have any of those. He ended up with a Charlie Manson tree instead.

Our tree is lovely, with plenty of soft, plump, moist pine needles that barely deserve the name; they feel softer than the bristles on a baby's hairbrush after a few minutes in the oven. M. Edium's tree, on the other hand, is a footless porcupine crossed with a mutant cactus. The needles on that sucker are more like spikes. We thought we could cheap out and just stick the sawed-off trunk in a planter full of dirt, but after just a few minutes of trying that, my arms looked like I'd tried to bathe both cats in maple syrup.

So we had to get a small but proper stand for it, because it kept flinging itself at us in these terrifying homi/suicidal attacks until I could get it locked down. I left the lighting and decorating of the horrible thing to Trash and M. Edium, at least until my fingerprints could grow back.

But it's still there, and I still have to deal with it. It would be bad enough just having to be in the room with it when getting M. Edium in or out of bed, but I also have to water it. Because, you know, if you don't, the needles get all dry and pointy.

Gosh, what would that be like? Because right now, when I put on an elbow-length steel gauntlet and reach in through those carnivorous branches to add enough water to replace that which has evaporated into the air, I still pull my hand out feeling like I've just tangled with a brigade of Lilliputian archers. Those needles stick in your flesh, and no matter how quickly you pull them out, they leave behind a tincture of poisonous venom that causes the wound to sting angrily for a full hour. And yes, this is in our child's bedroom.

I remember when I was his age how I used to count down the days until Christmas with anticipation. One does that less as one gets older, naturally. But this year, I'm counting down the days until December 26th with…not anticipation, exactly. More of a grim knowledge of an ugly battle that I may not survive, but which must be fought to make the world safe again.

posted by M. Giant 9:27 PM 3 comments

3 Comments:

Great post, I just discovered your blog after reading the piece on TIME magazine website about holiday music. Your take on it was spot on!

By Blogger Cynthia Fox-Giddens, at December 16, 2011 at 8:47 AM  

Wait, wait wait wait wait! You took the lights off your tree? I thought the whole point of the fake tree was that you could leave the lights on when you put it away? (I put a new string or two on mine every year. It's mostly lights now.)

By Blogger Kyle, at December 16, 2011 at 1:24 PM  

Jeff, you;re absolutely right about the lack of new Christmas death of melody being the prime force in pop music. But that's directly traceable to the demise of melody as the driving force in pop music - when rap and hip-hop pushed melody aside, the only refuge in American pop was country music. And too many country songs sound alike - so no distinctive country Christmas song has broken through for years. But fear not - I recently wrote (with a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame) a great new classic Christmas song - it'll be out next year. Get back to me then.

By Anonymous Jerry Leichtling, at December 19, 2011 at 12:34 PM  

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