I have done something traitorous. I am ashamed. And now I'm going to justify it.
I bought an artificial Christmas tree.
I know, I know, lots of people have fake trees. It's not a sin; it's a lifestyle choice. That is, unless you were born and raised in the Christmas Tree Capital of the World, also known as Indiana County, Pennsylvania. That's Indiana--the hometown of Jimmy Stewart, whose father owned Stewart's Hardware, where they never, EVER sold fake Christmas trees. Indiana, which could have been used as a set for Bedford Falls--a town steeped in Americana and decorated by Currier and Ives. No, in my hometown, trees of plastic and wire are not only frowned upon, they are despised and rejected as invaders of the true spirit of the season and killers of the local economy.
And it's not like we live in a place where it's hard to get a real tree. I suppose if you lived in Las Vegas, it would be easy to justify a fake tree. Heck, nothing is real in places like that. They even have fake Santas.
But Maryland has trees. There are tree farms not more than 15 minutes from my house. But we're not going there this year. Our tree was delivered by UPS. In a box. I ordered it online. From Sears.
So why did I do it? Why did I forsake my heritage and ignore the wishes of my sentimental oldest son and wife?
It's simple. I wanted to enjoy Christmas more.
Once upon a time, Karen and I were dreamers and idealists. We bundled the boys in thick coats and trudged out to the tree farm with a bow saw and high hopes. We walked over the hills and valleys, through the snow, to find "the perfect tree." Usually, what we got instead was complaining children, cold feet, snowballs down the back, fights, arguments, and an afternoon of misery. Ah, the memories!
So we started buying the tree from the boy scouts on the corner. The boys were off the hook now, but Dad wasn't. It was up to me to get the thing trimmed up, in the door, into the stand, straightened, and well lit. It took hours, and caused me to use words I shouldn't use, synonyms for "Hey, why are you guys sitting around drinking hot cider while I'm torturing my fingers and breaking my back?" It caused me to lose sleep because it took till 1:00am, and because on at least one occasion it crashed to the floor in the middle of the night. It left needles everywhere, it never fit right in the corner, and it was ugly by the time January rolled around. Did I mention we often forgot to water it?
So this year Christmas is coming from a box. It will be straight. It will be well lit. It will fit in the corner. It will take about 1/5 the time, leaving me time to enjoy my hot cider.
And it will smell like plastic.