My friend L called the other night, and we got to reminiscing about our years at college together.
Now, normally, such reminiscing would involve talk of parties, and frat boys, and those pictures we regretted having made their way onto the internets. But we weren't normal gals. We had both experienced Academia-Interruptus in our youth, and returned to college later in life, and by that time, with children in tow.
So instead of recalling with a certain naughty fondness that time I went to convocation in my bra and spandex pants*, we waxed nostalgic about our yearly Christmas tree hunt.
Yes, we were at a prestigious all women's college, but we were also moms trying to live off loans and financial aid. In other words, we were DIRT. POOR. So we had to get creative, and both of us being true-blood Northern New England gals, there was no such thing as a fake Christmas tree. It was a matter of great importance to have a home-grown, freshly cut tree. But no WAY we could afford the $50-$75 trees in downtown.
So we went straight to our resident resource B. B knew where to get the cheapest and bestest of everything.
"Oh yes!", she gleefully replied, "there's a great little tree farm about 15 miles away. Cut your own, any tree, for $10 bucks."
$10 bucks for a Christmas tree?
Oh surely the heavens had opened and were singing our song (with harp accompaniment of course) . We eagerly listed to directions to said farm-of-wonderment, and set out on our way.
Aaaaaand, got lost. The next year? Lost again. For four years we never could get all the back-road turns right and always seemed to arrive just as the odd old folk who owned the farm were settling in to dinner. This is, of course, before the days of GPS's and magic iPhones -- not that we could have afforded either.
But one year, we managed to get so lost that we arrived just as the sun was setting. We each had 5 minutes to find the perfect tree and cut it down before darkness set it.
Let's Just Put it in Perspective.
Here's where I need to tell you that there was a reason these trees were only $10 dollars. Aside from being located in the Bermuda Triangle of New England, the place was less like a tree farm, and a lot more like a tree junkyard. There was no neat trimming, there were no helpers, there were no lights, and there were NO shoveled pathways. There was a general tree area "over there". It was a BYOS (Bring Your Own Saw) and cut at your own risk gig.
L and her daughter found a short, plump tree in no time, cut it down, stuffed it in their back pocket and stood around shifting their feet in the snow waiting for me and my brood to find our tree already. I don't know what happened next. All I know is that there were three of us that had to come to agreement, and just as the sun was slipping down behind the horizon we spotted it. I set my son to cutting. A few minutes of "zhooopa-zhooopa-zhooopa" later, and he got tired so I took over.
It was then that I realized that some left-over snow at the base, and a slight slope was masking a lot more trunk than I realized. Not only was the tree MUCH taller than I had thought, it also had a formidably thick trunk. What to do? This tree was too big, but we had already cut halfway through it. Nothing else to do but pretend that everything was going according to plan, frantically dig at the crusted snow-pack, and slice through that foot-and-a-half in diameter trunk with my $5 saw and just keep smiling.
Ever try cutting steel pipe with a plastic knife? Good, then you're totally following me.
But We Still Need to Get This Beast to the Car!
We wrestled and dragged our tree back to the car, L and daughter skipping up ahead, tossing their tree back and forth between them. At the car, Mr. Farm-of-Wonderment came out to help us tie the trees down.
"Oh, no NEED sir," said L, "I've got this," and with that, tossed her tree into the trunk of her car and shut it. ALL THE WAY. Her entire tree fit in the trunk of her car. No bungee cording, no bouncing unlatched hood. I gulped. The enormity of my tree was now weighing heavily on me. No, literally, my joints were buckling under the weight. I smiled feebly at MR. FOW and together we heaved my tree onto the roof of the car.
And then we all stood there, collectively holding our breath as we waited to see if the roof would hold. The metal groaned, and then...held. We laughed nervously about the monstrosity on the roof all the way home, but I was mostly quiet as I calculated how many work-study hours it would take me to pay for a new roof.
It took some help from neighbors, and a super-deluxe Christmas tree stand, but we managed to get it up in our living room. And it was PERVERSELY enormous. When you sat on the couch, it reached out and slapped you from across the room and said, "Gawd, stop hogging the couch! Move OVER!"
As for ornaments. Just go ahead and picture a giant ogre wearing a toddler size dress, one dangly earring, and a pip-sized party hat.
* If you must know, I did go to convocation in a bra and spandex pants. Also a red cape and black zip-up boots. Trust me, that was conservative. I was sitting next to a woman wearing colored cellophane. Just colored cellophane.