Just before dark on a brisk Monday afternoon, I heard the careful pattern of Pop’s shoes on the stairs. I looked up to watch his approach. He was wearing a jacket.
“That sale ends today, doesn’t it?” he asked me. “Where is the nearest Lowe’s? We’d better take my van before it gets dark.”
So we did.
The always helpful sales staff got us right where we needed to go:
The Christmas Tree Aisle.
I have a confession to make: in all my two and a half decades, I have never in my life picked out a live Christmas tree. That is the honest truth. All of my fond childhood holiday memories revolve around a dusty old cardboard box stored in the top of my brother’s closet. Flat green boughs pushed and prodded to life, multi colored plastic bands sorted and arranged, a cold metal pole slowly transformed into a worn, tired, beeeautiful artificial tree. It was just one small way our family ‘went green’ and saved a (tree) life every year.
Last year, in honor of Tim and my very first Christmas together…we had no tree. That’s right. I completely dropped the ball on decorating and pretty much doused any form of holiday spirit that even tried to show its face around these parts. Of course, we were moving and repainting and living out of boxes and traveling alot, which might have partially explained my mad Christmas-spirit-shunning skills.
THIS year, on Thanksgiving Day, while comfortably seated on Pop’s couch (he hosted one last big hurrah at his place before his massive relocation to our house) drowning in Black Friday sales papers, I casually brought up the tree topic:
“So, Pop, how do you feel about an artificial tree?”
He was quiet for a long moment.
“Well,” he said finally, “I always get a real one…but it’s time for me to get used to some changes, isn’t it?”
He meant what he said and sealed it with a brave smile, but I knew he was thinking about more than just a silly old Christmas tree. It’s taken him months to prepare himself mentally for this move and all the loss of the way of an 86 year long life it entails.
Tim and I talked about it later and realized that although there are some of his past habits and traditions we can’t accommodate, this is not one of them.
So we scoured the ads for the best sale, banished our silvicultural stewardship reservations to a dark corner, and broke the news to our grandfather.
Side by side in the Lowe’s Garden Center, we analyzed our options. Back and forth in the fading light we weighed each tree’s merits. Back and forth, back and forth. Needle quality, overall shape, fullness, smell, taste, temperature, age, width of trunk rings…we checked it all.
Either that, or Pop walked right up to the first one he came to, gave it the once over with his experienced eye, and motioned for a sales assistant.
Either way, we picked a beauty if I do say so myself.
Once we’d gotten our tree nice and snug and comfortably situated, we brought her home. I don’t think I ever fully understood exactly how new mothers feel until I brought that baby into my very own garage and propped her up against the freezer.
“That’s all for today,” said Pop. “We’ll trim up the base and set up the stand in the morning.”
So that’s exactly what we did.