The Lost, Crooked Christmas Tree
Angela Williams Glenn
We were actually going to go to a Christmas tree farm to pick our family tree. I was super excited about this. I cuddled our newborn daughter close to my chest as we trudged through the fallen pine needles that blanketed the ground. The air was that biting brisk wind that practically shouted winter was on its way. My older daughter, only two, raced ahead, excited to pick the family Christmas tree.
We always had fake trees growing up but since my husband and I had been married, even though we had always had real tree , they always came from the Lowe’s Lawn and Garden Center. It wasn’t exactly the holiday tradition I wanted for my new family. I wanted that movie family Christmas where we went out to the Christmas tree farm bundled up in our winter coats, cut down our tree, loaded it on top of our SUV, and drove off with Christmas carols ringing out the window.
“What do you think?” I excitedly asked my oldest daughter.
“I don’t know which one to pick,” she exclaimed. Her big brown eyes gazed around at the rows after rows of Christmas trees of all sizes. She jumped excitedly with that childish joy twinkling in her eye.
“What about this one?” she asked pointing to one that would have made a good secondary bedroom tree but definitely was not the grand family tree I had in mind. It wasn’t much taller than she was.
“No, it’s too short. We want one that will reach the ceiling in the living room.”
“Okay.” We wandered a bit more. I noticed she started losing interest as the three of us discussed and couldn’t agree on a tree. She also started pacing and holding herself like she had to go to the bathroom. She was potty trained over six months before but there was nowhere to go potty out here and at two she was not the greatest at holding it.
“Mommy, my tummy hurts,” she whined.
Oh, no, I thought. I looked at my husband. That wasn’t a “I just have to quickly go potty” kind of look on her face. That was a “we better get her to a bathroom or we were going to have a big mess on our hands” kind of look. I looked around desperately.
“There are port a potties up by the building where you check out. I’ll take her,” he said, knowing my horror of port a potties. I am not a germ freak but the thought of my poor girl having to go in there was still disturbing. I definitely would have voted for an outdoor kind of thing if it would have been different.
“Can you hold a sec while we pick a tree so mommy can go tell the guy which one we want?” my husband asked her.
“I guess,” she said, still looking quite uncomfortable.
“What tree do you want?” he asked. After walking and dismissing so many trees, we now took the first one she pointed to so we could get her to the bathroom.
While he took her to the bathroom, I went to get the manager to haul our tree up to checkout. They were finally coming out of the bathroom almost twenty minutes later when I was getting the total.
“Ninety dollars, please” said the manager.
My eyes widened in disbelief. I glanced at my husband. Ninety dollars for a tree that we would discard on the curb in five weeks! That was probably a good two to four Christmas gifts right there. I was quickly losing my excitement of this whole real Christmas tree farm tradition. We should have just stuck with Lowe’s. My two-year-old wouldn’t remember and the baby definitely wouldn’t have, but I painstakingly handed over the check. This was about creating family memories for our young family, not tracking family bank accounts over a couple extra twenty dollar bills.
We loaded it on top of our SUV and slowly pulled out of the parking lot. I turned on the Christmas tunes. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” was playing. I turned around in my seat to sing it with my daughter. She grinned, bouncing up and down as much as she could in her seat, making up all the words in between “and Santa Claus is coming to town”.
We pulled onto the beltway. Luckily there wasn’t traffic because about five miles from our house, the tree completely blew off the top of our SUV and landed in the middle of Interstate 95. Our jaws dropped in horror. We both looked at each other, trying to confirm whether that really did just happen. We just paid ninety dollars for a tree and now it was sitting in the middle of the interstate! My husband quickly pulled over and we both got out of the car. Because it was Sunday, there wasn’t much traffic so whatever cars went by, they were able to go around the fallen Christmas tree. There we were starting our family Christmas tree tradition chasing our tree down in the middle of the interstate. This was not the family memory I envisioned!
“Mommy, are we going to decorate it when we get home?” asked my daughter from the car, looking in uncertainty at the tossed tree in the middle of the road.
“We sure are,” I said. I glanced at my husband and noticed the slight grin pulling at his lips. I felt myself smiling. It might seem like a bad stream of luck at the moment, but we would definitely be laughing at this moment later.
A good Samaritan pulled over and helped us haul it out of the middle of the road and strap it back on top of the car. At a snail’s pace we made it the last few miles to our house. We hauled it in and got started getting it into the stand. As we worked on getting it to fit into the stand we started noticing something wasn’t right.
“Daddy, it’s crooked,” said my daughter, examining the tree with her head cocked to the side. We were both laying under the tree, glad we finally got the thing in the stand. We dusted off all the fallen needles that were already literally my hard wood floors. We slowly stood up and backed up so we could have a good look at our family Christmas tree.
My excitement was quickly turning into a frown again. It was totally absolutely crooked. It was lopsided to the right. We messed with it more but after awhile just gave in to the fact that our Christmas tree for the year was a ninety dollar lopsided tree that decided to take a stroll down 95.
“That’s going to have to do,” I finally said. We turned on the Christmas carols again and pulled out the box of Christmas tree decorations. The three of us, with the baby bouncing at our feet, sang along to the Christmas songs and decorated our tree. I stepped back, noticing all of the candy canes, which my daughter hung where all hanging side by side in a line of twelve in the center of the tree. I couldn’t help but laughing. I looked down at my daughter in her childish excitement with her little hands clasped together in awe. I nodded at my husband to turn on the lights to light up the tree.
“Oh, mommy and daddy,” cried my daughter in her excited little voice. She grabbed our hands, standing in between us, with childish wonder and delight on her face as she gazed up at our tree. “It’s perfect.”
The childish happiness on her face told me even with the bathroom emergency, super-expensive crooked tree, and the 95 incident, I got my Christmas family memory after all. Her face said it all. The tree didn’t have to be perfect, nor the adventure in getting it, but the magic of Christmas was in her eyes and that’s what made it the beautiful Christmas memory that it was meant to be.