Friday, December 14, 2001


Growing up Christian and suburban, this was the annual question for our neighbors - does Christmas mean a fake tree or a real tree into the living room. My family? Fake all the way. It was packed away in a big box up in the attack. The "trunk" was two 1"-wide, green compressed wood rods which screwed together in the center. The branches were heavy guage twisted wire painted green and threaded with plastic shreds standing in for Fraiser Fir needles. Each branch terminated at an L-shaped handle that slotted into holes on the trunk. Ho, ho, ho.

I think the desire to own a fake tree (which, btw, my folks still use it) can be sourced to my parent's working class, coal country roots. Like Elvis, they grew up believing all things new were good. Old things were bad. Antiques? Forget about it. That was junk to be sold at the garage sale in order to pay for something plastic or chorme. A fake tree made of metal and petroleum byproducts was a perfect way to reject West Virginia and embrace Long Island. Ever see Graceland? Old bad, new good.

In our house, real trees were not for the indoors. In fact, my Mother appeared to have a dislike of all things natural. She believed animals were made for eating, not domestication. Trees were made for the sides of the freeways, not to be brought inside her freshly cleaned living. Deep down, she probably felt a real tree would release bugs or small animals into our carefully manicured tract home.

Nowadays? One of things I love about Natalie is that she was into real trees for Christmas. December has always meant a purchase that makes our car and house smell like pine for weeks. Yeah, the needles fall off, sap gets all over my arm when I bring the thing home, and there's something absurb about those lovely trees from North Carolina being sent to die in the sweltering heat of a Florida Christmas.

But screw it. I have crossed over and joined the other side. As long as tree farms grow Christmas trees, I will strive to own one for three weeks each year. Rather than recalling Christmas as the time of the year when Daddy pulls the big box from the attic and builds the tree, my son will associate December with those glorious hours spent trolling around Target's Garden Department or the Lowe's parking lot in search of the perfect height, branch spread and needle texture. He will know the scent of pine fresh from the tree rather than the aerosol can. He will remember brushing the dried green needles from his presents on Christmas morning.

And when he grows up, he'll probably resent how he was raised and buy a fake tree just to piss me off.

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