Oh #$%& TannenbaumDec 01, 2022 09:00AM ● By Maggie Barnes
“Glad we finally stopped. I didn’t bring my passport.” I frowned at Efrain, who was grumbling as he unloaded the chainsaw from his truck. “It wasn’t that far,” I said.
“The guy in that last field was speaking French-Canadian,” Efrain retorted.
“Listen, do you want a good tree? Sacrifices must be made.”
He was right that it had been a haul to the tree farm, more than an hour from our Waverly home. But this place had a great reputation, and even this early on a Saturday the parking lot was filling fast. Our friends needed a ten-foot tree and we were in the market for a fourteen-footer. Such height can be tough to find.
We spotted Efrain and Sandi’s tree first. Bob and I had a couple of contenders, but finally found the winner in the last row of evergreens. Right measurements, full and verdant green, I was happy with it.
As was our tradition, we caravanned to our friends’ home first, got their tree situated and then headed to Glory Hill. Standing and securing a large tree is always complicated, but, within an hour, we seemed to be stuck somehow with this one. None of us could figure out what the problem was.
“It’s straight,” Efrain announced from his vantage point on the floor, manhandling the bucket we used for a stand.
“No, it’s not,” Sandi countered from across the room, hands on hips and head tilted.
“How is that possible?” I couldn’t see my husband, who was holding up the tree from the opposite side. The tree shifted under his efforts and he asked, “How about now?”
“That’s got it,” Sandi started forward with the high-gauge fishing line to begin the tying off.
“Are you crazy,” Efrain said. “Now it’s out of whack.”
Two people looked at this tree and came to opposing opinions on its position? The house fell silent as the four of us pondered our plight.
“Efrain, can you hold this side, I want to look at something.” Our friend army-crawled backwards to re-emerge into view and take Bob’s place. My better half backed up as far as the furniture would allow and stared at the tree. Then he dropped down on his haunches and looked. Then stood up and looked. Down again.
“Hey, Jack LaLanne, work out some other time. What’s going on with the tree?”
“I don’t believe it. How did we do this?” It was an incredulous whisper. I felt my heart sink. By Bob’s estimation, our “perfect” tannenbaum deviated at least a foot up the length of its trunk. If its bottom was horizontal to the floor, it leaned backwards at the top. If the top was level, it was nowhere near the bottom of the bucket. It was the most rookie of mistakes, and we—veterans of twelve Christmases in our hilltop home—had made it. Because the tree was nestled among other evergreens, we didn’t have light coming through it to check the bearing on the trunk. All this thing needed was a crooked man and a crooked dog.
Our determined quartet spent forty-five minutes trying to finagle that tree into some semblance of balance, but we could not make it work. Turn this way, lean that way, what if the bucket goes backwards, forwards, sideways...we tried everything. The sense of aggravation was mounting when we found ourselves in our original positions—Efrain on the floor, Sandi standing back, Bob and I on opposing sides of the tree.
I swear I heard my husband’s tolerance snap like a Christmas cracker.
“Stop. Everyone just stop.” He said it so forcefully, we all froze where we were.
Bob took a ragged breath.
“Here’s what we’re going to do. Efrain, get off the floor. Sandi, open the sliding doors. We’re going to drag this thing onto the deck and heave it into the field. Then go get another tree.”
I pushed back as much of the green mass as I could and tried to get into Bob’s view.
“What? Do you remember how much we paid for this thing?”
“No, I don’t,” he said. “Because that was days ago! We’ve been doing this for a week, haven’t we? It’s time to surrender. This isn’t going to work.”
We were both red-faced and glaring when Sandi’s gentle voice floated through the boughs.
“Efrain, why don’t you open the wine we brought?” A glass of wine while the tree rested on the floor gave us an opportunity to regroup. Sandi, a nurse, provided reason and logic, and calmly enabled us to see the only path forward.
“We can get it to stand in a position that will look straight from one point of view—the entrance to the living room. No other angle will work, but at least it will be secure.” So, we grimly waded back into battle—just like Humphrey Bogart slipping back into the leech-infested water in The African Queen. Once we and the tree reached a state of equilibrium, we hog-tied that sucker nine different ways, loaded the bucket down with extra sand, and called it acceptable.
Our friend was not done with her helpful advice.
“See?” she chirped. “Just move all the furniture from the sides of the room. No one will notice the trunk from here.”
“Yeah,” Efrain chimed in. “The best idea is to put a bar on the landing of your steps outside. Everyone stops and has a cocktail before they even come in. Then they can sit on the kitchen counter and admire the tree from there. Easy peasy!”
Okay, not all their advice is high-caliber stuff.
To be honest, I was sure the tree was not going to survive the night, and sure it might take a wall or two when it fell. But there it was come daybreak, cockeyed as hell, but upright.
We entertain a lot during the holidays, and several times I found guests standing to the side of the tree, eyeing it suspiciously and turning their heads this way and that. I’d advance on them, refill their glasses, and offer our new “VIP seating,” on the kitchen counter.
Next year we’re bringing a laser level.