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Monday, December 04, 2006

Christmas Stories 

Here's one from Whiskey Fire:
The first year after we moved up here to chilly upstate NY from sunny Florida we were pretty broke, so we put off buying a Christmas tree until the last possible minute. We picked one up from some Boy Scout sale in the parking lot of a Methodist Church, because it was cheap. Since it was so late in the year we didn't have a lot of choices; we ended up buying one that looked a lot like the Charlie Brown model, only it was about 20 feet tall and had these evil branches that stuck out like swords. The needles were dry and hard, and when we picked the damn thing up they showered down on us like tiny little razor blades. One needle got under my glasses and stabbed me in the eye, and I was bloodshot for the holidays.
Needless to say, getting the thing stood up in the living room was a pain in the ass and a half (thus a pain in three cheeks total). Now, let me warn any Whiskey Fire readers who do not already know this: no matter how much you love and respect your Soul Mate or your children, if there is any hitch in the process whatsoever, putting up a Christmas tree together will make you want to kill them. Christmas trees can cause deeper and darker and more savage Instant Hate than even Being Late and Lost and Arguing Over Directions.
So that first year, the Christmas tree buying was kind of a total disaster. We resolved to do much better the following year: we swore we'd get the tree earlier, we'd get a better Christmas tree stand, we'd hide the kitchen knives, and so on.
Of course, we screwed this up. We got to maybe December 21st. No tree. The financial picture had improved, but our semesters go right up close to the holidays, and we were buried in papers and so on. We were exhausted and wanted to rest: the 7-Year-Old was then just a 4-Month-Old, and we weren't getting a lot of sleep. On top of everything else, the whole Florida recount fiasco was in progress, and we were appalled at, uh, how absolutely freaking appalling that was.
So it was about 6PM. We were both grouchy and bleary-eyed, annoyed and irked. We climbed into our economy Saturn and went out to get a tree. NYMary said she'd seen or heard of a place selling good cheap trees out by our small regional airport, way out in the countryside. The night was dark and cloudy and wet; there was snow on the ground but it was a relatively warm day, which meant some melting, which meant a ton of fog. Driving the road out to the airport was like driving through some B horror movie scenery, only more sullen. And, of course, when we finally got there, the place we were driving to was missing: we just could not goddamn find it. The wind howled, the darkness crowded in, and then the Saturn started to make a strange noise under the hood, like a cat got its tail caught in the fan belt or something. It was really kind of a bleak moment.
I mean, it sucked ass. Emotionally, it was even worse than the previous year, when we'd wanted to kill each other. Now we just wanted to kill ourselves.
But this is a Christmas story, so it ends well. As we drove through the fog, suddenly we saw a hand-painted sign: "Christmas Trees," with an arrow leading up a long, curving driveway. I turned the car suddenly. There was this guy sitting outside his garage, with a really well-laid-out selection of trees in his yard, all nice and full-branched. He was friendly, talkative, very upstate, and twenty minutes later we had a perfect-sized tree bundled up on the car. And when we got home we discovered that the new Christmas tree stand we bought at Lowes was actually really easy to use. Even the horrible noise under the hood simply... went away.
It was a god-damned Christmas miracle
Maybe it's dumb, but I've never gone from feeling really, really bad to feeling wonderful and warm and happy quite so fast in all my life. Sometimes, life smiles. Sometimes, that Christmas tree farm shows up out of nowhere, and you get to remember that there are still good people alive in this world. Even if you can't always see them in the fog.

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