Those words were a precursor to a Christmas experience I had yet to have the “pleasure” of experiencing. By the time I finished that sentence, I was having one of those little voice-in-the-back-of-the-head premonitions of impending Yuletide Aggravation.
We were Christmas tree shopping two weekends before the holiday. And we had found a suitable tree …
A suitable tree is a) alive, b) reasonably full and bushy, and c) fixable in places where it’s not reasonably full and bushy.
After looking at the first 45 trees, I usually remind my spousal unit that the tree doesn’t have to be “perfect”, which always gets me that “Thank you, Captain Obvious!” tilt-headed glare … which of course I live for!
As is the customary belief of REAL Christmas tree aficionados, Artificial Trees are reserved for soul-less, Just-Add-Water, Communists.
… and so we arrange for a tree-rustler to grab our prized evergreen and head off to The Prep Area, where the tree trunk gets a fresh cut and – in our case – a hole drilled up the middle of the trunk to accommodate our center-post tree stand.
For years and years we used the traditional four-point screw clamp tree stands and never seemed to have a problem. Then twice in three years we had trees topple over for no apparent reason; one time as we were walking out the door to Christmas Eve Mass.
And ever since we have relied upon our Center Post tree stand.
And this is where Christmas 2012 took its unanticipated cruise through uncharted waters.
The Mistake I made was to ignore the visual warning signs, despite the “uh oh” feeling I experienced after the following conversation, which resulted from my evaluation of the center post, tree-drilling set-up.
“Hey, I’m just curious, but I notice you guys don’t have the usual self-check fixture on the top of the drill rig.” (as had been used at other tree establishments in years past).
“Yeah, well … the grounds not very level here, so we can’t use the fixture as intended or the trees will come out drilled crookedly.”, our tree rustler offered.
“So, how do you guys make sure you drill the tree straight?”, I asked.
“Oh well, I’ll hold the tree in place as straight as I can; and The Driller checks the alignment from three directions to make sure we get it straight.”
uh huh …
Actually, there were two mistakes made here.
The first was to turn our annual Christmas tree purchase into an hunt, where we tour 4or 5 road-side tree lots before we head back to our usual Christmas tree merchant because no tree anywhere else jumps out and screams, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!!” at my lovely wife, Carol with sounds of Schroeder, Lucy and the rest of the Charlie Brown gang singing Christmas Time is Here.
The second mistake was not bailing out as soon as I saw the tree-drilling set up or after hearing that explanation. It just didn’t occur to me that if the drill rig was not level, even if the tree was visually “straight”, the “crooked” drill rig would …
Well … you can guess what happened next.
Get the tree home, but wait until the next day – December 16 – to pop the tree into the center post tree stand. At first I didn’t notice the Leaning Tree of Holiday Anguish. I usually allow the tree to stand in the warm house so it falls out from its tightly wrapped handling and transportation configuration.
The next morning, I come down stairs on my way to work and check to see how the tree is looking.
Oh no … You have got to be kidding me! Crooked?!? The damn thing is CROOKED!!!
At first I thought maybe the tree’s trunk is twisted. So I turned the tree on its stand looking for both The Good Side of the evergreen and an angle where it didn’t look like a drunk leaning against a lamp post. But no matter which way it was turned it somehow looked even worse!
So this Christmas season offered me the one holiday experience I had yet to encounter … The Retail Return of a Christmas Tree. After 50-plus years of Yuletide experience, you tend to believe you have seen it all.
Silly Santa …
Now some might say we were callous to reject an imperfect specimen. Yes, it wasn’t the tree’s fault. It was the boobs on the business end of a lopsided drill rig.
The tree vendors were nice enough about it. They offered me another tree or a refund. I made a cursory glance around for a replacement; although I have to admit, I didn’t WANT to find another one, also subject to the same off-kilter drilling process.
The tree purveyors offered a smile with my refund; and I trudged on back to the same old place we usually go, where the trees are on display with their trunks pre-drilled so there’s no guesswork involved. We ended up buying Tannenbaum II at our usual place and enjoyed a visually balanced Christmas tree!
The moral of the story is … “Familiarity breeds content.”
Also … “If it sounds too stupid to be done correctly, listen to that little voice in the back of your head.”