Today is "Black Friday". The post Thanksgiving celebration has begun. Pagan parades of greedy shoppers trek towards a materialistic mecca, armed with the belief that a sale will buy the indulgence of salvation and a transient high. Or, for those of us bitten by the seasonal spirit of verdant green, it is the day to begin the quest for the perfect Christmas Tree.
Many seasons ago, when my boys were small, we began a tradition of heading eastward towards that one special tree which we knew was waiting for us in the woods of the East End. I think I even composed little extemporaneous songs about a little tree yearning for the perfect family. Well, the perfect family, we weren't.
We were slowly going from poor to destitute and one Christmas, in particular, has become a family legend of sorts.
Over the years the designer trees of the North Fork had risen beyond our lumberjack coffers and miraculously, not wanting to abandon tradition, I had discovered a little Greek woman who lived right on25a in Wading River. She and her husband had a small grove of pine trees which they offered for cutting and sale for a mere pittance. I think they just loved seeing the little families come and select their treasures. There were candy canes and hugs for the kids, exclamations about how they had grown. It was pure Christmas nirvana and it fit my dwindling budget.
As the Christmas of family legend approached the three of us bundled up and headed out towards Wading River where, we trusted, our perfect Christmas Tree had been waiting all year. This was a really lean year. My light blue Chevy Cavalier station wagon was aging, it's stick shift refusing to go into reverse. For weeks I had been driving back and forth from Riverhead to work praying that I would not get into a situation which required backing up because, it just wasn't possible. Much to my chagrin in remembering this tale ,we had even been adopted by a large insurance agency as their Christmas Family. It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving and it was snowing lightly. Perfectly festive. I pulled into the Greek lady's crescent driveway and we paid her our $5. It was evident that she too, had fallen on hard times. Her husband had passed away during the spring. The lawn was not mowed and a gutter was hanging mournfully from the garage roof. Even sadder, however was the poor, scraggly collection of trees left in the grove. Charlie Brown's tree was a Tiffany jewel in comparison to these. I heard "Mom, these trees stink" and raised a hushing finger to protect our aging friend. "We have to pick one, I admonished so it's your call. Which one do you want?"
We made the default selection just as it really began to snow. That thick, wet stuff that sticks and builds up fast on the roads. The rust encrusted saw that my father had given me years ago made the cut and panting and freezing we began to drag the tree back towards the station wagon. We tied it to the top of the Chevy and thanked Mrs. M for the candy canes. "Merry Christmas!" We trolled. And then it struck me like a ton of ice. I couldn't back up!
There was but one solution. Eric, who was 13 and the eldest got behind the wheel with Ethan, his younger 6 year old brother manning the passenger seat. I put the car in neutral and showed Eric which pedals to step on as I took my position in front ,wedged between the garage door and the bumper, ready to push the car into a position where I could steer it onto 25a. Elbow grease ready I yelled "Okay Eric, step on the brake." He queried, always a little obsessive compulsive about doing things the right way "Which pedal is it, Mom" to which his brother answered "It's the long one stupid". The gears slipped, and well, you get the picture. Some piece of Grace saved me from being forever one with that garage door beneath the one armed crucifix of the hanging gutter. We changed places and the boys righted the position of the car with me at the helm. I wish this saga stopped here and we travelled Westward home, but it didn't.
Once out on the highway it was evident that seasonal had turned to treacherous. The car slipped and slid and suddenly there was a flying swatch of verdant green and a sickening thud. The tree had gotten lose and was scattering traffic in all directions. I stopped the car by the side of the road and while laughter and tears shared the same breath space, stopped traffic and retrieved our tree from its snowy grave in the middle of 25a. "What are we going to do now, Mommy," my little one cried. "We're going to shove it into the car and take her home" I cried. The three of us shoved the poor, spindly, bedraggled tree into the back of the station wagon and, in 3rd gear, it was Westward Ho!
Act III of this saga proceeds as such. I drive Eric to our church in Mt. Sinai for his JPF meeting and Ethan and I proceed to drag the tree into the house and attempt to make it stand erect. The magnificent mockery of a tree is at least 3 feet too tall for our living room and after sawing , pruning and pulling it erect Ethan offers with great mockery "Mom, this tree REALLY stinks." "Isn't that the truth" I reply and we promptly give our tree a "home" complete with stand, in the front yard where we will later trim it for the birds, and go to the nursery around the corner where I use plastic to pay for a perfect tree, cut by some lumberjack who knows his trade.
Will I cut my own tree again this year? The season is early and that remains to be seen.