O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree…

~ how awful are thy branches ~

My Dad could easily be misunderstood as a guy who doesn’t love holidays.

But the truth of the matter is, what he really hates…nay, abhors…is “going to town”. He hates the traffic. The noise. The crowds. The dark restaurants. The loud restaurants. The exorbitant costs. The works.

So its not so much that he dislikes looking at Christmas lights. He just dislikes “going to town” to look at Christmas lights, waiting in a long line of traffic to do so and then bumping into the five thousand other people who are there looking at Christmas lights, all before paying $50 to buy hot chocolate for his entire family (remember? 2 of his 4 children are “in the ministry”. If he doesn’t buy our hot chocolate….nobody gets hot chocolate).

Likewise, he doesn’t hate going to pick out a Christmas tree. He hates having to “go to town” to pick out a Christmas tree.

So two years ago, after hearing my brother Pete recount his single favorite Christmas as the one where our family went out back to chop down our Christmas tree, my Daddy had a really fun idea: let’s cut down a tree from the new property he purchased in town (our small town, not Tulsa “town”), the one that joins up with the acre Mr. Gore and I were building our home on. He drives by the place every morning on the way to work and he had spied a whole line-up of possible Christmas tree beauties. The grandkids would love it, and the best part? He wouldn’t have to “go to town”.

We caught his excitement and chose a day for our Christmas tree excursion, and what happened next went down in family history. Settle in, because this…is good.

(I’ve got to preface this story by pointing out that my Dad is the man. He can do anything. He can measure things with his bare eyes. He knows how to properly secure a Christmas tree in the stand. He’s an expert in the great outdoors. That’s what makes this tree story so bizarre!!) Here is Granddaddy as he gases up his chainsaw. What is not pictured is the line of expectant family members, all bundled up for our outing. It was a frigid day, one I’ll never forget.

This picture of my niece, Anna Ruth, will give you an idea of exactly how cold it was. The children had on two or three layers of clothing, but nothing could shield us from that biting Oklahoma wind.

Freezing or not, here we go!

The further away we got from the house, the colder it got.

And right about here is when I started to realize that this might not have been the best idea, after all. I’m carrying a 40-pound toddler against the coldest wind, I feel like we’ve walked about 3 miles…and we’re only halfway there. But there is no turning back…we are committed to this adventure.

But once we got down there, the trees didn’t look nearly as good as they did from the road. We just kind of wandered around in circles, surveying this ragtag group of pines, some more like bushes, other more like…taller than my house.

Sidenote: I love this little boy and would do anything for him. Even carry him to this tree wasteland in Antarctica.

“Hey, this one doesn’t look so bad.” my Daddy called out. We all agreed – it was perfect! Funny though…standing in the midst of a small pine forest, no one seemed to notice that this tree was…oh, 16 feet tall?!

Yes! This is it! This is the one! Merry Christmas, everyone!! Deck the halls with boughs of holly!

And this is the big moment, the one that Granddaddies dream of…

As his grandchildren (and his wife) watched with wonder, my Daddy revved up his chainsaw…

and cut that baby down. Ready…

Steady…

Timberrrrr!!!

The prize. (Huh…is that the same tree? Now would be a good time to start noticing that this tree looks kind of totally different in every picture).

Back uphill we tromped, our brand new Christmas tree leading the way…

for about ten seconds. Then Gideon decided he wasn’t taking another step. So guess who got to carry him? His Aunt Amy. (I’m still thanking her for that).

We’re almost there!

Once back to the work truck, a quick measure showed that this tree might be just the right size for my parent’s house.

They load ‘er up and drive ‘er to her new home in the country…

Exhausted Gideon slept all the way there.  (Sidenote: O…M…goodness. Was he really that little??)

So we get it home and set it up in the front yard and…it seems to have grown a little during its 10-mile trip down the highway. My Daddy stands in the yard and stares at it.

Mr. Gore drags it inside, nonetheless…

and it self-inflates to twice its normal size. This can’t be the same tree that was just standing in the yard.

No…its tripled in size! And doubled in plain old ugliness.

My Mom just fled the room, laughing until she cried.

This tree not only dwarfed the living room with its majestic girth, but its pine scent infiltrated every corner of the house, not fresh and invigorating like a Colorado pine, but dank and dirty like an Oklahoma pine. It gagged us one and all.

I initially tried trimming at the branches with some kitchen shears, but they were no match for this “tree” and I had to fetch some weed wackers. I soon gave up, however, afraid to make it worse. (Not to mention the rash that began creeping up my arms the minute I touched it).

That’s right…I said rash. I couldn’t go near this tree. Thus, Mr. Gore had to decorate it while I looked on from across the room. (I hate to be repetitive, but again…is this really the same tree? Does it not look like it has now cloned itself ?)

The next day, Daddy tried to revive our Christmas spirit by heroically decorating the rest of the tree, and I so wish I had the pictures to show what happened next. In about fifteen minutes, this entire tree, full of breakable ornaments, fell over. It smashed into the living room floor with all the gusto of its initial fall in the wilderness. Screaming in shock and terror, I scooped up both children and ran from the room, never once thinking to take just one picture of the aftermath. I don’t know what was more disturbing…the heirloom ornaments that were lost that day or the manic and wild nature of this tree. I think it was sending us a message: You should’ve gone “to town”, suckers.

Christmas morning came, and our Giant Christmas Shrub of 2009 was there to greet us. I will admit, the tree had its moments. At times, I would walk into the room and laugh, but at others, I would marvel at its beauty and admire it for its pioneer spirit and smell…but by Christmas morning, it had begun to settle, and was irrefutably u-g-l-y. It had no alibi.

That said, we’ve had a lot of really beautiful Christmas trees over the years. This tree is the only one I distinctly remember…

I could pick it out of a line-up.

That’s not a compliment.

You’d Better Not Pout

Why it is an American tradition to take our children to sit on Santa’s lap, I don’t know – its like the pumpkin patch all over again!!! –  but year after year after year I find myself coordinating our Christmas clothing and forcing my children to take at least one photo with ol’ Saint Nick, whether they are oblivious or terrified or whatever.

Its stupid, I know.

But it also results in some hilarity.

Take a look…

Let’s face it. It was no surprise to ANY of us that Gideon did not roll with this punch. Well, except for Santa. He looks a bit surprised, which says a lot about his “omniscience”, hmmmm?

Maybe next year, Gid will do better…

Looks promising, right? But no. That is seriously as close as Gideon got to Santa that year. He wouldn’t go in that cute little house or even darken its doorway.

He was happy, however, to take a photo with this drum set at the nearby Pottery Barn Kids. “Gideon…” I warned. “There is no way Santa will bring you those drums after the way you just snubbed him.” I was right. Santa did not bring him those drums. And he never will. (Mwah ha ha ha!)

So maybe next year, Gid will do better…

Progress! He at least conceded to sit next to the jolly old fellow. This was our first year to visit The Christmas Train at Dry Gulch. I was so embarrassed that Gideon had his pacifier in his mouth (usually just a secret nighttime indulgence) but he had a bad cold and I neither wished to miss this epic event nor stay at home; we hoped the pacifier would keep him from breathing on people. It seems like it also gave him the courage to interact with Santa!

Meanwhile (seriously, at the same time) Miss Sunday was with her Granddaddy and Grandmother at Bass Pro Shops meeting Santa (but wait? I thought Santa was at Dry Gulch…how did he…what’s going on?) for the first time…

She reportedly adored him, my unsinkable Rebekah Sunday.

And he adored her, in return.

But what would she think the next year? And how would Gideon feel about Santa as a 3-year old with NO pacifier?…

Score!

Fail. Rebekah obviously has forgotten how chummy she and our white-bearded friend were last year. We decided to try a family shot instead, resulting in my favorite. Santa. picture. ever. hands-down. no contest. for. the. rest. of. my. life…

Everyone’s happy right? Until your eyes land on Miss Sunday…

That’s a pout if I’ve ever seen one.

Their relationship has continued to deteriorate. On Sunday night we made our annual trek to The Christmas Train and popped in to see Santa before we left. From afar, Rebekah told him what she wanted: “A new baby.”

Gideon asked for a toy train and a toy airplane, and then we took a group picture, Rebekah tucked safely on her Papa’s lap. When it was time to leave, however, she got all kinds of brave…

“Where’s my baby?” she asked with absolutely no levity in her voice.

“Well, little girl,” Santa hedged. “I have to go back to the North Pole and make it.”

There was a long pause as we all waited to hear what she thought of this news.

“Actually…” she said in her little high-pitched voice, staring unflinchingly into his eyes. “I think I want a…teddy bear.”

We were a bit slow to catch on, until Gideon exclaimed “There’s a teddy bear!” Turns out, Santa was surrounded by teddy bears. Which makes me think Miss Sunday was really saying “Now what are you going to do, Santa? Are you going to deliver…or not?

I think she’s on to him.

But at least we got a fun picture. And on the first try, too…

Ahhhh…I haven’t had this much fun since we went to the pumpkin patch and propped crying Betsie up on a pumpkin.

Christmas Tree, coming up next!