Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tree'd: Volume I

The spirit of Christmas finally smacked me in the face like a refrigerator falling off a speeding furniture truck. Last Saturday, my lovely wife Robin and I participated in an event we like to call The Annual Christmas Tree Lug. There is a Christmas tree lot at the end of our street about a quarter mile down the hill from our house. Parking is at a premium and it's too much of a pain to put the tree in the trunk so we walk down to the lot and buy our tree.

Like much of America, we downsize Christmas this year and carry that theme to our choice of greenery. We opt for a skinny six foot tree instead of the usual seven- footer, saving fifteen bucks and perhaps ten pounds of tree in the process. Of course, my wife wants to bargain the price down too. She'll bargain over anything from groceries to electronics at the drop of a hat. Robin is probably the only woman in America who enjoys buying a car. It took me a long time to find a woman who relishes frugality as much as I do. My love for her knows no boundaries because of it.

So we pick out our tree, pay our reduced price and lug the tree back up the hill. After a bit of trunk trimming, the tree stands proudly in our living room ready for decorating.

Now we pull out all the Christmas music. Nobody does Christmas music like The Jingle Cats. Thank God. The joke and the novelty wear out their welcome after the first five seconds. Any more than that and one is either certifiable or has a house full of seven-year-olds.

Actually, we lead off with the inimitable Vince Guaraldi and music from A Charlie Brown Christmas. This album is a real touchstone for my generation of fifty-somethings. Guaraldi's playing is superb as well.

While futzing with the lights, we segue to An Oscar Peterson Christmas. Why these two people rate their own Christmases separate from the rest of us I do not know. The album alternates between admirable restraint and admirable tearing it up.

Once the lights are up and rearranged 42 times, Oscar has had his moment and my wife hauls out A Windham Hill Christmas. Now here's an entire organization with their very own Christmas. Does anyone share anymore?

While my wife handles most of the ornament placing, I start preparing the London broil thawing out on the counter. A little seasoning rub and into the broiler it goes. There's nothing like the broiler on an early '50s O'Keefe & Merritt gas range. Adjustable rack height and flame level make it the Cadillac of broilers and a must for steak lovers everywhere.

Now the house smells like steak and baked potatoes microwaving in the "nuke." This is enough to make me cry on its own but go ahead and add in the Celtic Christmas music wafting out of the stereo and the live tree smell. I'm ready to go.

Then I look at the tree. On it are favorite ornaments from when Robin's daughters were little, mixed in with newer stuff from my life with them. Since I weaseled my way into their lives, many of the ornaments I added have an outdoor theme. There's a little hiking boot, a lantern, a mountain tent and a pair of snowshoes. There's also my favorite shown in the photo above.

If you can't make out the shape, I will tell you the white thing is a roll of toilet paper. Most backpackers know the plastic international orange trowel is the international symbol for, well, you can take it from here on your own. I love this ornament. Robin's daughters hope the cats carry it off and bury it somewhere.

So now the music plays, the steak sizzles, Robin looks very cute decorating the tree, and she's handing me some ornaments. At that moment, I realize how much history hangs from its branches. Every family's tree is a totem. Each ornament is a little bit of history and comfort. The cats like batting them around too.

For most of the 19 years since arriving here at the Outpost, I did not put up a Christmas tree. I felt I had better things to do with my hard-earned money. My job was to strive and suffer until I reached The Ultimate Goal. That was a mistake. Perhaps putting up a tree and staring at those ornaments would make me miss my family too much when they're 3,000 miles away. Now with Robin and her two daughters, knowing our tree is truly il nostro albero brings a new and exciting level of happiness.

Now I'm ready to fall on my knees and thank God for allowing me even this small glimpse of marriage and family life as a husband. Most of my friends married in their twenties so they have a twenty-five-year head start. I am a mere rookie.

By now, Robin wonders what's up with me. I can't begin to tell her all the different feelings coursing around simultaneously. So I grab her and we dance until I get it back together enough to talk to her about it. Evidently, she's not used to the men in her life confessing the simple truths about themselves because it looks like she's ready to cry too.

No comments: