December 19, 2007

How I'd Love to Strangle Thee

O Christmas tree! O Christmas Tree!
How I’d love to strangle thee.
O Christmas tree! O Christmas Tree!
How I’d love to strangle thee.
You piss me off ‘most every year.
But this is it, I shed no tear.
O Christmas tree! O Christmas Tree!
How I’d love to strangle thee.

~ lost verse to a Christmas carol
from the very dark ages

The best thing about buying a Christmas tree is that you do it only once a year. It’s like that prostate examination. You know you have to go, and it is always as bad as you remember.

The real problem for me in this process is that I am a perfectionist. So you take me to a place with hundreds of frozen trees that are piled up against each other, and ask me to pick out the best one? How many days do I have?

I figured out a way to make the buying process easier: I bought a house with low ceilings. So the tree has to be short. All my life I have wanted the tallest of trees, even though I have never had a house that would accommodate one. So I always overbought. The tree was too tall, too wide, too bushy, too prickly, too this and too that. Now I buy small – small tree, small problems.

I also have changed my method of choosing. I no longer have to see every tree at the nursery. I go on a very cold day and I hold up trees. The first one that my wife likes, we buy. I call that maturity. And learning how to survive.

Notice that I said “we.” Buying a tree is a matrimonial experience in my house. That way, I can make it painful for more that just me. My wife dreads the tree buying day because she has experienced so many bad ones with me. She watches to catch me in a good mood – not always an easy task. She feeds me so that I am not roaming on low blood sugar. She praises whatever small task I do so that I feel like a hero when tying down the trunk lid.

I get it home and wrestle it out of the trunk and past the storm door that wants to refuse entry to anything so wide and green. Now comes my favorite part.

I get out the tree bag in which I will wrap the tree for removal at the end of the season. This bag will stop those pesky pine needles from inserting themselves throughout my house. I find them in my ears in August. I am so smart to be so prepared.

The giant white trash bag comes with the instruction to insert the bottom of the tree into the hole in the bag. But there is NO HOLE in the bag! What happened? Did they run out of time at the factory? So I have to cut the hole – not a happy job for a perfectionist. Where should the hole be? How big should it be?

With the help of my ever patient wife, I get the tree into the stand. I then twirl for a half hour like a ballerina with my arms around the tree so that the best side will be showing. Is the Nutcracker about buying a Christmas tree?

There my story ends. I turn over the decorating job to my wife. I know better than to let my perfectionist, squirrelly brain get lost into decisions about ornament and light placement. I have learned a few things the hard way over the years. I will save my energy for the taking down part. I love to dismantle and destruct. It requires very few decisions.

Oh, I almost forgot. There is one more great part to this story. In the Spring I get to burn this tree! And I sing, “O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!” as the flames shoot to the treetops. Few things make me happier.


the Christmas rascal said...

Hey Jim; I'm on the opposite pole from you. I want to get a Christmas tree, but time and circumstances just won't seem to allow it, - too much else to do. I "pine" for a tree, the smell, the happy blinking of the lights, the ornaments passed down from year to year, the funny and enlarged memories of Christmas trees past. I want one, but am reluctant to get one (I went to the store this afternoon with the express intention to get one); and you on the other hand, have gone through all the "perverse delights" of having one, but can't wait to get rid of it!! Go figure. Why can't we both be satisfied with just where we are? I sure as hell haven't figured it out.

Jim Hession said...


I think that a tree would really "spruce" up your life. But since you say you are on the "opposite pole," maybe you need a Festivus pole. Check out