Sometime before Thanksgiving, Jason wondered if we should consider getting an artificial Christmas tree this year.
I looked at him like he'd sprouted a second head, and that second head was suggesting that we go vegan, give the dogs away, and consider getting an artificial Christmas tree this year.
We were both raised in Artificial Tree Households -- my mom told me I was allergic to real trees; his mom couldn't stand the needles and mess -- and our mutual dislike of the fake trees was something we discussed during our engagement. I would take some Claritin and we would be a Real Tree Household. Our first real grown-up rejection of our upbringing.
Then my in-laws generously gifted us with their giant (and super expensive) fake tree and most of their ornaments. And because I didn't want to offend them with my Controversial Tree Views (on top of not going to church! and registering as a Democrat!), we dutifully used it for our first couple Christmases, hauling it from one rental apartment to another. I have no memory of where we even stored the thing in a few of those places, but after we bought our condo in DC I said ENOUGH WITH THE FAKE TREE. I gave the tree to a coworker and we've had a Real Tree every Christmas since.
(And I never needed the Claritin.)
The Real Tree became even more of a thing once we had kids, and we upped the ante by rejecting the parking lot trees and trekking out to a tree farm to cut our own. And now, this year, out of the blue, Jason's like, "eh, maybe that's all kind of a pain and a fake tree would be easier?"
Well, yes, it IS a pain and a fake tree WOULD be easier, but STILL It's what we do! It's tradition! Noah wrote us a book about getting our tree at the farm! THIS IS IMPORTANT TO OUR CHILDREN. HOW DARE YOU SIR.
And so I won, and we went out to find a Christmas tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
And it was miserable and everyone hated it and no one had even the tiniest bit of a good time, including me.
The first two places we went had zero decent or appropriately sized trees. Noah got carsick from all the driving. Ike kept announcing he had to go to the bathroom five minutes after we left any place with a bathroom. Ezra wanted hot chocolate and sunk into a grumpy tween snit when I told him to wait until after we got our tree. I suggested we cut our losses and get a tree from the lot at the YMCA five minutes from our house, but unfortunately all the guilt I'd heaped on my husband about the fake tree suggestion meant he was Unbelievably Steadfastly Determined that we were going to cut that motherfucking tree down at a motherfucking tree farm, so Help Him God. And so we drove deeper and deeper into the Maryland countryside in search of a tree farm that actually had, you know, trees.
We found one, finally, along with literally every other Real Tree Household on earth, because it was mobbed. Absolute chaos. There was a line to park, a line for saws and tree sleds, a line to get your tree shaken/tied up, and then a SUPER long line to pay. But they had trees. So we marched on in search of the perfect tree.
And we all found one! Different ones. Everyone got their heart set on a specific tree and/or wanted to be the person who "found" our tree. Noah actively disliked every tree that we considered save for the one he liked, despite it having a huge bald spot right in the center. Ike fell in love with a tree that was much, much too wide for our family room, and then grew increasingly distressed watching other families walk by and reject it as well. "They're hurting its feelings!" he cried. Ezra swore he'd seen the perfect tree but now couldn't remember where it was, but he knew it was 100% totally better than whatever tree we were currently looking at. At some point I tripped and hurt my stupid ankle.
Finally, Jason just pointed at a tree and said, "That one. We're getting this one. Everybody just shut up and deal with it."
Ike counted the tree's rings while Jason went to went to go fight someone to the death for one of the tree sleds. He was never seen from again.
No, much, MUCH later he returned to where Ike and I sat guarding our felled tree. "I thought Ezra and Noah were with you," we both said at the same time, and then did nothing about it. They'd turn up eventually, right? Or could befriend some helpful forest creatures?
Jason got in line to pay for the tree and I found the rest of my children hovering around the hot chocolate stand. I realized I didn't have any cash, so in order to keep my promise to Ezra and get them each a 50-cent cup of hot chocolate, I had to also buy them a Gatorade, Pirates' Booty, a package of cookies and a random Christmas ornament shaped like a flip flop in order to hit the $10 minimum for credit card transactions.
There was no one around to help us tie the tree to the top of our car, so Jason and I heaved the thing up ourselves and did a semi-incompetent job of securing it. I think we kind of panicked because there was a small mob of people hovering nearby in hopes of snagging our tree sled and we really had to get out of there before zombie violence broke out.
We drove home in mostly silence, other than Ike announcing that he needed to go to the bathroom again. Ezra spilled his hot chocolate. I broke out in hives all over my hands and face from touching the tree.
The tree Jason picked is enormous and entirely too big for our space, because I guess after living among the trees for so long we all lost all sense of size and proportion.
(Rey's all, YOU KNOW HOW THIS IS GONNA END RIGHT.)
And that's the story of our Real Tree and our very Real Family Holiday Story, the kind of story that Instagram probably doesn't want you to know about.
And just think! I get to take this all down and haul the tree out to the curb in like, a week. Meanwhile, I'll be sweeping up stray pine needles for the next six months. Merry Christmas, suckers.
P.S. Our smol bonus tree, that is also Real, that Jason brought home from the grocery store, either out of more guilt or to really stick it to me, as I now have needles to deal with in two rooms vs. just one.