Today, we’re getting our Christmas tree. I’m terrified. This always proves to be the worst day of the year.
The day starts with a threat. “We’re going to the Christmas tree farm and we’re going to have FUN,” my girlfriend says.
Anytime anyone says “fun” in capital letters the event will be just the opposite. I like going into experiences with the assumption that they’ll be miserable. That way, you’re delighted when anything short of physical torture takes place. When you embark on an adventure that promises to be “fun” or “a lark,” it’s bound to end in despair. Particularly when there’s an axe involved.
The Christmas tree farm is a nightmare. It’s exactly like a Thomas Kinkade painting—a seemingly charming and bucolic setting imagined by the troubled mind of a vicious drunk with a terrible family life, who everyone thought was a wholesome Christian until he dropped dead in his own vomit.
We start bickering on the muddy road that leads to the farm. We merge into a line of fancy SUVs sliding through the muck, grimly joining the chorus of muffled curse words emanating through the vehicles’ well-insulated windows. All the parents in the front seats look on the verge of divorce. All the kids in the back are biting their lips and staring off into mid-distance, trying to mentally transport themselves to their safe places.
When we finally arrive, we’re given an axe and a saw. We briefly consider using them on each other as we wait in the wet, frigid weather for the horse-drawn cart to arrive. Although the trees are in walking distance, we must take this cart to our trees of choice. On my first trip to the farm, I found the notion of being taken to cut down my own tree by old-timey transport romantic. Now, after suffering through the freezing, bumpy, interminable journey for several consecutive years, breathing in a constant stream of plowhorse gas and jostling against the dozens of other people packed into the cart, all of whom are carrying saws and anger-management issues, I know that the devil is the architect of Christmas.
The trees are segregated into species and there’s a troubling hierarchy that seems vaguely racist. The trees with names most closely associated to Aryan cultures—Scotch and White pines and Norway spruce—occupy the best neighborhood of the farm. They are a quick cart ride from the farmhouse. The more “exotic” types grow in the most desolate region that requires a half-hour journey on that loathsome cart. My girlfriend likes the exotic types.
Once we find the perfect tree (a decision fraught with more spirited arguing), I’m forced to wallow in the muck with my saw to chop it down from its prickly base. My girlfriend always has a convenient injury that prevents her from doing this filthy duty.
I suppose the worst part of the experience isn’t braving the cold, wet weather. Or dealing with the angry holiday masses. Or standing in line for ages just to have some imbecile at the checkout counter question your wisdom in choosing a Frasier fir over a balsam fir.
No, the lowest moment comes when we’ve got the tree lashed to the roof of the car and we begin the journey home, picturing with dread the horrors that await us at home, where we’ll threaten to kill each other as we struggle to place the tree in its stand and battle over placement of ornaments.
Then, when it’s all over, we’ll open a bottle of wine, bask in the twinkling tree lights, and my girlfriend will sigh and say, “Now, wasn’t that fun?” And I’ll want to murder her all over again.