This year I got what for us was a good head start on Christmas. Three whole weeks before the day I bought the big tall tree, just as my son told me to do as he left for his post-Thanksgiving train: “Nine feet, remember!” he had called over his shoulder that Sunday night. And then, magically, there was this fine nine-footer riding home on the top of my car and what a beauty she looked to be, even though standing outside for 8 days still trussed in her plastic netting, she came to look less like a tree and more like an outsized tampon.
My problem is my mate sees putting up the tree not as a task but as a kind of whimsical ‘notion’, a project we might get to it if the time should ever seem right. I, meanwhile, am more of a fretter; I like to get a thing DONE if I know I have to do it. Even at 6 in the morning I’ll hop up and get our bed 90% made when he goes out to the porch to get the paper – even if I know the both of us are likely to get back in it. David couldn’t be less like this. When I first met him as a college junior I distinctly remember him expressing the belief that if you postponed doing a thing long enough you might never have to do it at all, didn’t I realize that? Why write your paper early when who knows your professor might be dead by the time it’s due?
In our house putting up the Christmas tree falls into that same paper-writing category…
Finally though, we did tackle the joint task of wrestling the thing inside, which is when things started going a bit sideways:
For some reason I’m not as good as I used to be at reaching three feet in through those thick piney petticoats to hold the tree trunk stable AND SAY WHETHER OR NOT IT LOOKS STRAIGHT while far below me my man writhes around on the floor attempting to drive the stand’s long skewers into its trunk
We stepped back for a look. Suffice to say, the tree was listing badly, ’tilting,’ to use a more accurate word, every bit as much as this hardened little ball of PlayDoh we call Earth tilts on its axis.
“That’s good enough for now, David genially opined even as he ambled back to the coach and his waiting book. “We’ll wait for a big strong guy to come by,” he added, meaning somebody who could pull it straight up out of the stand while he once again coiled around the trunk to screw those long metal rods into its pink and tender flesh.
For three long days I racked my brain trying to come up with such a person, even as the tree’s top branches yearned beseechingly toward the topmost corner of the living room windows. I got so I couldn’t look at it. I stopped going into the living room altogether until in a flash it came to me: I actually did know a big strong guy, two big strong guys in fact, a couple of dear-to-me high school seniors.
I went and picked them up. My man dropped once more to the floor to loosen those long, long screws while they wrested the big heavy thing free, then held it straight up in the air for five long minutes while he made the necessary adjustments.
And so it was done. Three days later we put on the lights. Though we seemed to be short a string or two, they looked just fine to us, anyway no worse than if a very nimble chimp with a stepladder had put them on.
Then, two hours before the clock struck 12 to usher in Christmas Eve Day, our son arrived at South Station and, a brief Uber ride later, walked into our living room.
He smiled that certain forbearing smile your kids send your way once they’re grown.
“Nine feet tall!” I yelled hopefully.
“It’s nice,” he said in a musing sort of voice.
And do we mind that he undid the whole lighting job and did it again a better way? Not a bit. In fact now that I think of it his dad might have been right those many years ago after all. Maybe if I can learn to postpone things the way he does I can get out of it that whole Easter basket racket too. 🙂