time-honored laughter

decorating our tree by Trevor Irvin

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.

our completed christmas tree by Trevor Irvin





The illustrations in the is story are by the author, of course, Trevor Irvin – a terrific illustrator, click here to view his website.

Trevor Stone Irvin

Trevor Stone Irvin

Illustrator and Designer living in the Candler Park area...At one time I worked at the Atlanta Constitution and then for CNN at the startup...it all seemed too much like real work so I went freelance...which my father defined as "being unemployed for a real long time".

  1. Eileen Dight

    I was with you every step of your ordeal, Trevor. Since discovering pine needles under the sofa one June I resorted to an artificial tree, but you are obviously purist. (Just checked my Puilly Fuisse to ensure not bottled in Hoboken.) Relieved you eschewed the hazardous stepladder. Hic. Don’t know what Janna would do without you.

    1. Trevor Stone Irvin

      I knew I could count on you to understand … and you’re right, Janna is a very lucky girl. But an artificial tree!!! Please tell me your tree doesn’t come “pre-lit.” I hold the “Annual Tree Lighting Arguments” to be sacred! My gawd woman you’ve sucked all the fun out of a time honored tradition.
      Yours in Christmas,

      1. UPS still has not delivered your gift to me. I was hoping I’d get the used and strangely smiling angel this year. Any possibility it will arrive as a New Year’s Eve gift? Jody says she envies Janna. Keep truckin’ and cussin.’ It’s good for the digestion.

        1. Trevor Stone Irvin

          The present I said I was sending was simply a ruse … My hopes are to eventually steal Jody away from you.
          Merry, Merry you two backwoods weirdos. May the spirits fill you with abundance or at least good booze.

  2. I liked your article. Would have been better without that #*@% cussing.

    1. Trevor Stone Irvin

      Glad you liked, but it wouldn’t be Christmas without the cussing … Some people cuss, some don’t … I use expletives in my writing as I do in my conversation. As my Mama used to say “Trevor is an acquired taste.”

  3. Definition of curmudgeon

:  a crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man.

    1. Trevor Stone Irvin

      Well, you should work on that Ernie …

      1. Burns original

        O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
        To see oursels as ithers see us!
        It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
        An’ foolish notion:
        What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
        An’ ev’n devotion!

        Standard English translation

        And would some Power give us the gift
        To see ourselves as others see us!
        It would from many a blunder free us,
        And foolish notion:
        What airs in dress and gait would leave us,

        And even devotion!

        Guess we might be brothers from another mother😉

        1. Trevor Stone Irvin

          Yes, I agree, if you saw yourself as I do, you would be rather horrified and I’m sure you would attempt to change a few things … New years resolutions are coming up — let me know how it goes.

  4. Your article is the only thing that’s made me giggle in a longer time than is healthy. Especially the cussin’, of which I do a lot. Thanks and Merry Merry.

    1. Trevor Stone Irvin

      Christmas Liz,
      Glad I could be of some limited service … May the spirits of Christmas be many in your abode.

  5. Will Cantrell

    Excellent piece, Trev, though I mistakenly thought you were smart enough to know by now, you should never decorate the tree with your spouse. Never. I tried it a couple of times when I was a much younger —-and more nimble—- man and I can report that once the tree is in the house and on the stand, nothing good can come from such ‘helpfulness’. It’s better to just get appropriately soused, watch, and make pleasant comments about how good the tree looks. My other male friends have made the same observations based upon similar experience and findings. Nevertheless, it was an excellent piece by you and I, for one, thought the cussing was an essential part of your treatise. There is also scientific evidence that those of us who cuss are the more intelligent of the species. (I also suspect that we’re gonna hear a LOT of cussing over these next four years.) In that same spirit, Merry Christmas Dammit! Will

    1. Lee Leslie

      I learned a long time ago that the only acceptable response to anything my wife asks, Christmas or otherwise, is to say, “you look young and French.”

      1. Trevor Stone Irvin

        Again! The Leslie dude nails it!!!

          1. Trevor Stone Irvin

            It takes a smart man to recognize good advice … something I’ve yet to achieve.
            Regards to you and your young French wife, you lucky bastard.

    2. Trevor Stone Irvin

      As men cut frum the same cloth … I concur. Fondest regards and I will supply the booze at our next golf outing … cue the lying and cussin’

  6. Ken Peacock


    You never disappoint me with your view of civilization, the world, and now the Christmas tree. I went out at 6:30am to the local Boy Scouts hall and bought a 6ft tree for $70, took it home, cut off the bottom of the trunk, set it in the stand with water and let someone else decorate it. Simple, right? Walked away, opened a bottle of wine and relaxed. Of course it is in the wrong place, too small and the lower branches are scraggy. Do I care, after a bottle of wine at 8am?

    Enjoyed the venture, been there, done that and now relaxed. Have a great Christmas, best wishes for 2017 and beyond -with or without a tree.

    1. Trevor Stone Irvin

      I can see you’ve got this well under control … and yes, wine fixes everything no matter what time it is.
      All the best, may the holidays treat you well.

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