Getting a Christmas tree was a huge deal growing up. A typical tree-fishing event goes like this:
We pile into our Ford Taurus, my sisters and I marshmallowing uncomfortably against one another in the back seat, clad in puffy coats and winter hats. Then we're sloshed around over windy highways for about an hour to the Johnson's family Christmas tree farm in the Santa Cruz mountains. The farm is on the same property as their residence so they're out front greeting us cheerfully with holly wreaths and mistletoe.
The next hour-and-a-half proceeds like a Bizarro world tree-hugging campaign. Each family member sets up an encampment next to his or her tree of choice. We shout at one another across the lot, each loudly proclaiming the respective merits of our favored candidate. "This one is tall"; "This one is full of thick branches"; "This one will do your laundry"; and so on. Sometimes the politics get dirty and we start issuing bribes in hopes of taking out a rival party. There's always one thing that my sisters and I agree on. We do not want the scrawny, sparse-branched white fir that our mother is lobbying for.
Except for Charlie Brown, could anyone find this tree endearing, let alone worthy of providing shelter to the mound of Christmas presents I'm expecting this year?
At some point, the wills of all but one family member are crushed and by process of elimination, we have selected a sacrifice for our Christmas tree stand. My Dad ceremoniously places the saw against the trunk, and after several minutes of fighting the dull blade, concludes the slaughter with a "timber."
You would think that the journey is over at this point, but alas, it has only begun.
We're back at home, faced with the daunting task of getting the tree into the house. Thus commences an elaborate sequence of furniture moves and awkward home videos.
Our tree goes in the living room, which is the front room of the house. Normal people have a re-usable template for tree placement. My mom prefers to re-arrange the furniture each year to match some unattainable ideal of tree-couch-coffee table feng-shui.
My dad's way of coping with this is placing our toaster oven-sized video camera on a tripod with a full view of the living room. He strategically starts and stops recording so that on film, our furniture appears to hop randomly around the room. To top it off, my mom can't stand all the particles that accumulate underneath each piece of furniture, so the clips are interspersed with shots of her and the vacuum waltzing around the room to Bing Crosby and Julie Andrews records.
Hours later, when the camera has run out of tape and my sisters and I have glazed looks on our faces, the tree is finally in position and twinkling with colored lights. The vacuum makes an encore performance to slurp up stray needles and at last I'm permitted to adorn the tree with my favorite ornaments, while Alvin the chipmunk laments his missing two front teeth.