M and I got our Christmas tree in the snow today. I love doing that chore in seasonally appropriate weather. Cutting the tree down is the ideal, of course, but if you’re going to a lot, it is best to do it in the snow. My kids’ father and I had many great Christmas tree stories: the $125 tree and the balky cabby, it should have been we who balked at spending that decades ago; the tree decorating party when one couple spent the night necking on the sofa and everyone was so eager to avoid them that the part of the tree near them was bare of ornamentation. The best was when our friend Doug found a titan of of the forest on an Upper East Side sidewalk. We arrived to our brownstone apartment with a mammoth, perfect tree in the hallway. It must have been from a record label party because it had an ornament made from the cover of a Bruce Springsteen album, thus the tree became our Bruce spruce. I still have that decoration with the young Springsteen smiling as he hangs from a silver ribbon.
After having kids, we started going to a place in Connecticut to cut our tree, until they closed. Still we went to Connecticut and got off at the same exit. We decided to take a left where we had previously taken a right. This was, actually, something we had seen a family we knew do a few years before as we traveled north in tandem on the Taconic Parkway. We then were holding our collective breath that they would not be heading to OUR farm and indeed they weren’t. Now we were the potential interlopers.
We followed signs that promised “cut your own” and drove over a pitched and muddy drive through “the largest collection of fire trucks” in the world? in disrepair? It was bizarre and completely compelling. “Look, there’s one from NYC,” “There’s one from Rye”, and on. Interspersed with these hulks covered in snow were the occasional El Camino with a decade’s worth of weeds in its hold or a Rolls Royce with no back wheels sitting atilt with the grille missing its Flying Lady.Our previous farm offered wagons to get your tree back to the base camp. This one did not.
So it was there that I returned with my two younger children when their dad got irate at some poorly received behavior and he refused to go on this annual journey. After our usual prodding and pleading in attempts to change his mind, we nodded to each other and off we went. When we arrived at the vehicle graveyard things did seem different. Yes, there was more snow, but no one seemed to be around. We stopped at the hut that stood before the tree farm & was told that there were no wagons and “ya don’t want to go out too far because ya’ll just have to lug it back.” Yes, I stoutly responded, I understand; no we don’t need a band saw, we brought our own. AND our own twine AND our own clippers.
We drove to the furthest spot to park. It wasn’t snowing but they had a good 6″ on the ground. We walked, and opined on various candidates and chose one. Then the challenges began. Ok, “who wants first cut?” No one really cared. We took turns trying to get a purchase on the tree with the saw, and it was not easy. Finally when we made a decent cut, I stood and pushed the tree to one side as M put the final effort in and the tree came down. We all congratulated each other on our good choice and excellent work.
I looked out at how far away we were, not from our car, which was a significant distance, from the hut where we would pay. I then, to my everlasting shame, started to heave my breath deeply and whine. “Oh, we’ll never get this damned thing all the way over there. What the hell was I thinking? Why did I…” Somewhere in the middle of this rant, M and A asked me where we had to go and they, 14 & 11, each picked up one end of the tree and set off towards the hut. I stood at the top of the hill in this strange landscape populated by trees and their remnant stumps with moldering hulks of steel in the background and watched my two indomitable youngsters take off over hill and valley. I could hear them laugh between themselves and as the sun lengthened their shadows I watched as our tree wobbled its way up and down erratically heading its way to the hut. I was so grateful to them for the humor of what I witnessed as well as for their tenacity in the face of their mothers’ incapacity!
Then we got to the hut. As I said, I had the materials to put the tree on the roof. We baled the thing ourselves; but when I said I need help tying it to the roof, the guy said, “we don’t do that.” I was stupefied. We had done everything: cut, carried, baled and put the tree on top of the car and I was being upended by my inability to tie a knot.. It would be a long highway drive back to our Westchester suburb . I needed a secure set of knots.
The man reluctantly returned to us after a 30 minute wait. I didn’t tip him as much as I would have 20 minutes before. What I did was vow that I would never be vulnerable [to any man] because of an inability to tie a knot again. A week later I saw a gift box in a store, that had various lengths of rope and a book titled, “How to Tie a Knot”. It is one of the few books that made the cut in my move last year. .