Thy Leaves Are So Unchanging

One of my family’s rather unique traditions is that we have always put our Christmas tree up on Christmas Eve.  This may not be all that unique – to hear my mother tell it, back in the old days everyone used to do it – but I also don’t know anyone else who does it.  The whole Christmas tree thing is really important to my mom, so I don’t question it.

Doing it so late allows us to wait to pick out a tree in the first place.  This is not conducive to having a wide selection of trees, but hey, it was nice back when I was in college because I could still go with the family to pick it out.  My sister lives in Boston, so the trip now gets put on hold until she gets home.

The three of us usually go out without my dad, because it’s not something he ever really concerned himself with; his family always had an artificial tree and put it up much earlier, so it wasn’t a big deal to him.  However, with him being in and out of the hospital three times in the last two-plus months, and twice in December, he’s been doing a whole lot of nothing all day, and I told him he was coming this year.

My sister arrived the other morning, as I already wrote about.  We had planned to go tree shopping yesterday, but I refused to do so when it was 68 degrees and raining.  There was literally no way I was going to buy a Christmas tree in early May-type weather.

It was a little colder today, but still raining, so we pushed the trip back as long as we could.  We finally had to bite the bullet and go; my mom had to be at work at 4:00, so it was now or never, raining or not.

Now, lots of families have hot-button topics or sore subjects that always lead to screaming and yelling.  Sometimes it’s that someone doesn’t like someone else’s spouse.  Sometimes there’s a relative’s arrest or a history of alcohol and drug abuse that ruins the atmosphere as soon as it comes up.  For my family, it’s Christmas tree shopping.

It boils down to a simple fact: every year, I walk around the lot(s) and identify suitable Christmas trees.  My sister, on the other hand, identifies Christmas bushes.  I’m right around six feet tall, and I always pick trees taller than me.  She has never once in her life picked out a tree taller than her; considering she currently stands at a little over five feet tall and stopped growing like 12 years ago, this is a problem.

A Christmas tree is supposed to be, among other things, majestic.  In your entire life, have you ever walked around a garden and thought, “my, what a majestic shrub?”  No, you haven’t.  My sister sucks at picking out trees.

I think it stretches back to when we were super young and the biggest fight was over who got to put the star on top of the tree.  I don’t ever recall doing it, and I feel like my mother always did it, but I do know it used to make my sister upset when she didn’t do it.  My best guess is that she got it into her head that if the tree was small, like her, she could put the star on it and reach the upper branches when hanging lights and ornaments on it.  Ever since the invention of the step-stool back in like 1594 (don’t quote me on that), however, this has been a stupid reason to pick a tree.

Every year she goes right to a four-foot high shrub, and immediately I begin mocking both her and the “tree.”  You’d think she would know by now, but she never learns.  She also never gets her tree picked, but at the same time, neither do I.  I’m always told that my choices are too tall, or the wrong kind, or some other nonsense my mother makes up to keep me from being able to gloat.

Well, this year, I came prepared.  I found a good tree that I liked, and presented it to the family.  I immediately pointed out that while it looked too tall now, we could cut six inches off the bottom, where there were no branches anyway, and maybe pare down a couple of the branches at the top to make sure they didn’t scrap the ceiling and left room for the star.

Maybe it was the quality of the tree.  Maybe it was the unassailable logic.  Maybe it was the rain.  Regardless, we drove away not long after with the tree tied to the roof of my car.  I won.

It might seem like small potatoes, and it might sound incredibly stupid.  It is, and it is.  But at the same time, we’ll actually have a Christmas tree, with actual room underneath for gifts and decorations.  You just don’t have that with a Christmas bush.

That makes us all winners, really.

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