Like clockwork, Christmas comes in tripping over the trappings of the season. Before I can utter, “Oh holy night,” it’s at my front door jingling the bell. To herald in the holidays, our tree joined the hall-decking party three branches to the wind. It promptly propped its elbow on the living room mantel and shed a dirty joke on the floor.
I take the blame for the unsightly mess mistaking itself, in its stupor, for a broad-bristled Leyland Cyprus. It was I who sent my husband and sons to the woods with strict orders to not return home without a celebratory cedar.
Armed with a handsaw and hope, they struck out on foot. The first tree they came to was a full-bodied specimen with delicate, frondy fingers and good posture. But her legs resembled two tree trunks. She was the kind of woman who would split as soon as her ties were severed.
The men walked on, soon spotting a second tree. It pined for them to take it home, but its portly, short physique forced the men to march farther.
Finally the foursome came to a third tree. It listed to the left and staggered toward the sun, aiming to grow straight but severely missing the mark. “Perfect,” one of the boys whispered in awe. Their enthusiasm for the hunt waning and this the season of charity, they made it their mission to rehabilitate this victim of the environment. As my husband sawed, it weebled in one direction, then wobbled in the other, then tumbled down the steep incline. Sprawled prone, it held up two twigs and insisted it was OK.
At home, my three sons wrestled the dead weight into the tree stand and wrapped it in strands of traditional colored lights. Not as practiced as their father, words adequately strong enough to cower a Christmas tree into submission evaded them. The tree’s uncooperative limbs jovially dodged the boys’ efforts to dress it up and bring it in out of the cold, a civilized, sober presentation for their mother. When they eventually situated it in the corner, I instructed them to rotate it for me. The 16-year-old son, intuitively predicting a dizzy disaster, declared, “Mama, there is no good side to this one.” It amiably agreed, steadying itself against the fireplace.
Our 14-year-old gazed upon the intoxicating sight, the lights merrily flickering, ornaments dangling from every bough, and said: “It looked smaller in the woods.” On that note, suddenly unable to hold its liquor any longer, the tipsy Tannenbaum disrespectfully toppled toward me, vomiting 5 gallons of water onto the Oriental rug before shamefully passing out with its head inappropriately landing in my married lap.
It had gone from over-served to sloppy while the children had innocently encouraged it to put its best foot forward.
A glass ball suffering survivor’s guilt floated on the tide to the low side of the living room. ‘‘Do you see what I see’’ caroled from the stereo. As I surveyed the disaster, proposing we give up and go on a yuletide Disney Cruise, holiday spirit reminded me that this is what Christmas is all about. Like my tree, I am broken and undeserving. Yet, Christ came into the world to save me, despite myself. He never gives up.
We carefully helped our tree to its feet and showed it to its place in the corner. In keeping with the meaning of Christmas, I’m determined to find its good side.