Sunday, November 30, 2008
A Christmas Story...
Or two girls, a peppermint mocha, and a Christmas tree, a tale of perseverance and determination.
On Friday the boys left to go deer hunting. Ashley and I decided we would go get the Christmas tree without them this year. It would be a fun start to the Christmas season. Before we went tree shopping we stopped at Starbucks for our first peppermint Mocha of the season. Flavored coffee in hand, we stopped at the Christmas tree shop. We got inside to discover the trees were lovely and reasonably priced. So we wandered down the isle. It smelled of fresh cut pine. Christmas carols played on the loud speaker. I picked up the first un-netted tree in the isle and stood it up. “What do you think?”
“It’s perfect!” She declared, mocha in hand.
“Do you think it’s too tall?” I looked up at the eight foot tree and tried to picture it in our living room with 9 foot ceiling.
“Then we’ll get this one.” We were so proud to have picked a good tree right off the bat. So easy. I looked at her sipping her mocha. “How about you take the top and I’ll carry the bottom.” I lay the tree on its side and she positions herself at the top. I pick up the bottom. We lift…and grunt. An 8 foot balsam fir weighs at least 60 pounds. We get it to the check out. So proud of our accomplishment. Neither one of us are exactly gym rats-and I have a bad back.
The check out girl checks us out and asks if we want help to the car. I look at Ashley-she looks at me. “No thanks,” we say. We are women hear us grunt as we pick up the tree and walk it the short distance to the car. We lay it down and decide the best way to transport it is inside our 2001 PT Cruiser. So we open the car doors, lay the back seat down. Our goal? To shove an 8 ft. fir tree-un netted- into the back of the PT Cruiser. I take a hold of the bottom and lift. We shove. The tree gets as far at the back seat. Ashley puts her mocha down and grabs it from the second seat and we shove. The scent of pine rises. Needles fall. Bottom branches bend and splay out like a cat trying not to get into the bathtub. Almost there…
We are so clever.
Ashley races to the open front seat for the final shove and doesn’t quite make the opening slamming her forehead on the edge of the car. I pause at the loud thunk. She stands up and blinks.
“Are you okay?” I ask, tree in hand, back strained.
“No…” She says weakly. We both laugh.
“Are you concussed?”
Tree is growing ever heavier in my hands. “Can you help?” I hope so because I don’t know what I’d do if she couldn’t.
“Yeah,” she says bravely and gingerly pokes her head inside the car. One final shove and the tree is in as far as it will go. Ashley comes around to the back. “You need to close the back hatch.”
I’m skeptical. We’ll probably have to get twine and tie the door. But I reach up and give the door a good push. It closes! Wow! I can’t believe we got that tree in this little car. We both pop into our prospective seats. I can’t see out the back at all. I move the tree to see Ashley in the passenger side.
“How’s your head?”
“Hurts,” she shakes her head and laughs.
“We don’t live far. When we get home, you need to put ice on it. But right now I need you to help me see.” We drive home. Happy Christmas music on the radio. My back strained and screaming with each breath, lump forming on Ashley’s head, mocha forgotten.
Yea! We’re home. Ashley gets out to go put ice on her lump. I open the back hatch and survey the damage. Tree looks a little worse for wear. I muscle it out of the car and stand it up in the garage. Then go inside.
Ashley has a giant white towel filled with ice on her forehead. My back is protesting. We might be a little worse for wear, but we got the tree! I check her pupils, they look normal. She tells me the world went black when she hit it. I wonder if we should go to the emergency room. She tells me no. We soldier on, setting up the tree skirt and stand inside.
I read the tree instructions. “Cut an inch off the base and place tree in a gallon of water.” Cut an inch off the base… hmmm, do we have a saw?
After much looking we discover a thin tree saw. I lay the tree down and study the base. It’s about six inches wide. I’ve watched the guys saw the base off the tree every year. How hard can it be?
Holy mother of pearl! I’m sawing and sawing. Sweat is pouring down my face. I am currently a quarter inch into the base. Wow! Ashley looks on, ice pack on her lump. She is not going to let me saw alone. I will need a witness in case I accidentally saw through a finger. After twenty minutes, I decided that the best thing is to attack the base from all sides, so I turn the tree and saw though a quarter inch. Turn it again…saw through, turn it again, saw through. By this time, all my arm muscles are shaking. I take off my coat. I study the tiny cuts in the tree. I glance over at my neighbor’s house hopeful. (He’s the one with the snow blower and other man tools.) No, I think, no. I can do this!
I look down at the saw which now looks as thin as dental floss. “I’m trying to cut through a tree with dental floss for goodness sakes.” Ashley laughs. There has got to be a better way. I go looking for a hammer and chisel…I’ll chisel through that thin cut, right? Found a hammer, but no chisel. Found a rusty old hand saw. It’s thicker. It’s got to work better.
I go back to sawing. Half an inch all around. Then an inch. It’s growing dark out. I’m cursing all men for their arm muscles. Ashley tells me that things like this might take us longer, but we can do it. Men on the other hand can never give birth. Small comfort in my time of need. I study the tree. All the wrestling has led to more broken branches. At least those I can cut off with relative ease.
“Here, mom, let me help.” Ashley puts down her ice bag and has a go at sawing. I’m sweating and shaking, my pulled back has gone numb. I glance at the neighbor’s house. Is he home? Does he have a chain saw? No, I’m going to do this!
I take the saw from Ashley and attack the tree with all my frustration and pain. Finally, finally the base pops off. We shout and celebrate and high five each other. Sweating, muscles trembling, we look at each other. Now for the hard part…
We pick up the tree and take it around the house, up the decks steps to the patio door, leaving a trail of needles in our wake. I laugh that by the time we get it in the stand it will have one branch left and a handful of needles. We open the patio door and move the kitchen table aside. I leave a chair strategically under the chandelier so no further head bashing will occur. We pick up the tree and wrestle it inside. All we have to do now is get it in the stand.
I lift the tree, wobbling while Ashley settles the stand underneath. I put it down. It sinks bravely. She tightens the screws. “Okay,” she says from her position on the floor. “That’s it, let go.”
I let go, the tree topples. I grab it.
“I don’t know what else to do.” Ashley blinks at me-large purple bump on her forehead. I laugh, tree needles and sap embedded in my hands and shirt.
“We’ll switch places.” I get down and eye the situation. There are three thick branches at the bottom- one is hanging up on the edge of the stand. “We have to turn the tree.” I unscrew the screws. Hands cramp and tremble. “Okay, turn it.” I hold the stand. Ashley turns the tree. The branch goes lower. I eye the situation again-worried. Those three branches are below the stand lid. I don’t think it will work, but I try anyway, screwing the screw into the tree trunk. “Okay. Let go.”
The tree tips-so does the stand.
There is only one thing left to do… take the tree out and cut off the lower branches. I whimper as I unscrew the screws. Ashley is too weak to lift the tree. We trade places. I pull it out and place it on its side. Then I get the saw and cut off the bottom branches while Ashley puts on Christmas music. We laugh.
One more time, I grab the tree and lift it. She positions the stand under and the tree sinks down with a pleasant pop. YES! I tell Ashley that this is the kind of relief you feel when you give birth. The “Thank the good lord that’s over” kind. She screws in the screws. I let go. The tree stands.
We cheer. Then lie prone on the floor exhausted.
Ashley turns her bruised head toward me. “I suddenly see the appeal of an artificial tree.”
I can barely move. “If the boys ask, tell them it was easy. A piece of cake. We have no idea why they struggle each year…” We laugh.
A hot bath and a glass of wine later, I come downstairs and study the giant tree. The top is an inch taller than our ceilings. I’m going to have to get up on a chair and clip it. The tree is also leaning…But leaning can be a look, right?
I smile at Ashley. She smiles back.
“You know, the boys put the lights on.”
Her smile disappears. “Tomorrow.”
I agree. We reheat our mocha’s and rest on the couch. The air is filled with the scent of pine. We are women…hear us roar…