It starts by driving 500 miles to seven different tree farms, farmers markets and retail establishments to argue with seven fingered cretins about how “there is no way in hell I’m going to pay you 100 bucks for a dead, eight-foot tree.” At some point, finding yourself in a state other than the one in which you started, and having been told by the seventh tree ape to “shove it” in several languages and hand gestures, you decide to cut your losses (no pun intended), and purchase a 4-foot 2-inch tree for $125 that looks as though it was harvested last year at the site of the Chernobyl meltdown.
But the tree is finally home. The yearly “overpriced dead pine-tree decorating debacle” can begin.
First things first. I begin this auspicious occasion by fortifying myself, uncorking the first of several bottles of wine … followed by numerous bottles of beer, vodka or whatever is left of the gin. Janna begins this occasion, as tradition dictates, by calling me a useless, drunken jackass.
Next we move all of the furniture in our house nine or ten times to determine the perfect location of the tree. Now the tricky part: to affix a “tree stand” to the bottom two inches of twisted, and slanted, oddly-shaped tree trunk. I do this using saws, jack hammers, welding equipment and a years’ worth of swearing, to fashion a combination of plywood, re-bar, high-grade cable and a cinder block into a sturdy and festive tree stand.
Once the tree is actually vertical, the bottom five limbs cut off, and the giant hole in the tree’s side turned just so — it’s decided that now, rather than “ugly as hell,” the tree only looks violently lopsided – so, full of promise, we proceed to step two: “Application of Ornamentation.”
The time-honored tradition of screaming and vicious, high-decibel arguing begins about halfway through the “Preparation of the Garland.” The raging, gnashing of teeth, and cursing will reach its crescendo during the “Stringing of the Lights,” where you consider it would be far better to string yourself up instead of the tree. Or skip the lights all together, also known as the “Fuck this stupid shit” method. Remember, throwing the tree out and celebrating something else, anything else, is still an option at this point.
Don’t worry too much about safety at this point, as there is nothing dangerous about wrapping a tinder-dry pine tree in cheap, frayed electrical wire made in China and plugging it all into an electrical outlet.
To prevent the neighbors from hearing the excessive cursing, Janna plays CD, after CD, of incessantly cheerful Christmush songs at high volume – which is when I rediscover my all-encompassing hatred of Bing Crosby.
By the time the tree is ready for the “Arrangement of Breakable Glass Ornaments,” the wine will have finally calmed our nerves enough for us to simply start tossing the glass bulbs at the tree, in hopes they lodge somewhere. Those that break will be called sparkly “Christmas snow” and left where they shattered.
At the point, I can no longer navigate a stepladder safely due to “The Pouring of the Spirits”, I cease providing my wife with any help whatsoever and retire to the nearest chair to nurse a third bottle of Pouilly Fuisse. From that perspective I will now oversee operations as would any good supervisor. I occasionally tear myself away from trying to read the indecipherable type on the wine label … something about it being bottled in Hoboken, N.J. — to mutter helpful decorating tips such as “that tinsel crap is throwing off the look of the whole damn thing” and “the cat just left you a present under the tree.” After Janna lets something dangerously heavy fly at my head, my feelings hurt, I insist, “I am just trying to be helpful.”
But eventually, the tree is decorated, most of the lights work, and the cat’s “present” has been cleaned up. It is now time to top the tree in the solemn, and very moving, “Mounting of the Angel” ceremony. This was originally a literal rite begun by pervert catholic priests out of public view; fortunately over time has now morphed into a purely symbolic gesture performed by shoving the tip of the tree up a plastic angel’s robes. And there she will sit for the duration of the holiday season, watching over us, an ironic smile plastered upon her face.
The tree, now complete, awaits only the many presents I don’t have the funds to purchase – which is why, for yet another Christmas, my children will again hear me drunkenly utter “It’s the goddamn thought that counts!”
Merry damn Christmas to all.
The illustrations in the is story are by the author, of course, Trevor Irvin – a terrific illustrator, click here to view his website.