Let me just preface this piece by stating : I hate puttin’ s**t on top of my car.
No, I mean, for real, I HATE puttin’ s**t on top of my car!
When I was a kid, my brother and I would head down to the Penn Fruit parking lot at Castor and Erie, by the El stop. My mother had scraped together all of two dollars for us to buy a Christmas tree. (My kids hate this story) We weren’t poor, but there were more than a few times I can recall when she couldn’t even scrape up the two bucks for food, let alone a luxury like a Christmas tree.
Once we got there we’d walk past the people looking over the fifteen dollar trees, and then the people looking over the ten dollar trees, and then the five dollar trees, but when we got to the lowly two dollar trees we were all by ourselves. Slim pickins. It isn’t being poor that hurts ; it’s feeling poor that’s the killer.
Every year for … well, ever since our boys were little, our family has driven up to Bucks County, a little past Lahaska, to cut down our own Christmas tree. In fact, even though the boys are grown now, we still do it. It’s a tradition. And every year, I spend the whole time, all the way up, all the while there, and all the way home, pissing and moaning. Why? Because I know that after we pick out a tree, and cut it down, and drag it to the check out station where they pull it through that netty thing, and we pay for it – sixty bucks! – I’m going to have to tie it on top of my roof. And I HATE puttin’ s**t on top of my car! And I hate the nerve wracking ride home, watching the trunk shift and jerk and lurch with each turn and sudden stop.
So, why not just get a smaller tree? One you wouldn’t have to tie on top of your roof? Because it is written somewhere in the "Giant Book of Christmas Rules" that the tree has to be at least eleven feet tall!
I don’t know. The ceilings in our house are nine and half feet high. It seems scraping our newly painted ceilings with the top of the Christmas tree has also become a family tradition.
Every year I present my case : An eight foot tree is still plenty big – it would scrape the ceiling of most houses – and we could probably just fit it into the back of the RAV4. It would take some doing but – Sorry! Non-negotiable.
And it’s not just the tree. Our family has more traditions and ceremonial procedures than a Mason with OCB.
Christmas is the day J.F.K. was shot of holidays. The memories you have of Christmas are the most profound memories you carry with you throughout your entire life. The good Christmas memories are the best memories you will ever have. The bad Christmas memories – the most crippling.
There’s a direct correlation between your Christmases when you were a child and the way you observe the holiday the rest of your life. We always seem to be trying to ‘get it right’ this year, perfect, in an effort to recapture those most wonderful Christmases when we were still believers, or somehow to rewrite history and erase the sadnesses of all the Christmases that fell short. But the harder you try to make Christmas perfect, the more you’re just setting yourself up for a fall – barking up the wrong tannenbaum.
Christmas isn’t supposed to be perfect. It’s supposed to be bitter and sweet. It’s supposed to be about two dollar Christmas trees and you and your big brother carrying that tree on your shoulders from Castor and Erie all the way home to your house on K Street and setting up that old manger scene underneath, the one with only one wise man and a stray lamb. But the star of the show was there, and his parents. That’s all that really mattered anyway.
So don’t get all crazy about the tinsel of the season. In all of history there has only been one perfect Christmas. And that happened two thousand and twelve years ago.
You’ll never top it.