Thursday, December 10, 2009

O Christmas Tree

Yesterday I did something I realized I hadn't done in years. I got a tree at a Christmas Tree lot. You know the ones, they set them up during the holidays at vacant lots, and stock them with trees that were cut probably as early as October.
In recent years, I simply put lights around a potted tree I already had, or bought a small live one at the grocery store. All during the 80's and 90's I would get those little ones, and after the holidays I would drive up to Lake Tahoe. There's a rest stop along highway 88 where I would replant them. I haven't been up there in ages, but I'm hoping some of them have grown to full own grove!
When I lived in Rohnert Park, for a few years there I went to a tree farm near Sebastopol. Shawn would come with me and we'd cut one down, making sure to leave a few branches at the bottom so it could continue to grow. We'd bring it home and decorate it. I even bought an electric train to go around it, because I had one when I was a kid.
It all takes me back. But getting one this year had a certain poignancy. My mom and I walked along rows of pre-cut trees, other families were browsing too, "How about this one?"
"Nah, too lopsided."
I couldn't help but think of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" where he and Linus went tree shopping and picked out a forlorn little tree. All of them reminded me of that little tree. Just sitting there waiting for a home, almost as if to say, "oooh pick me! pick me!" only to slump over when people passed them by.
There were also stacks of trees leaning against the fence, with no stands. They seemed even more forlorn, like wallflowers at a high school dance. I noticed one of those, it was nicely proportioned. "How about this one?"
"Yeah that's a nice one, but it doesn't have a stand."
"That's okay, I'll make one."
I stood it up and fluffed out its branches, it WAS nice! "Okay let's get this one." It felt as though we were rescuing a puppy from the pound. It would have a nice home, for a while anyway.
On the drive back, with the tree stuffed in the trunk, a memory struck me from long ago as they often do. When I was about 4 or 5, I was with my mom at Valley Fair shopping center in San Jose. Outside in the parking lot, a doughboy pool was set up, stocked with little trout where kids could fish with small rods. For 50 cents, they gave you a rod with bait. "You wanna try it?" my mom asked. "Okay!"
So I dropped the line in, and sure enough I caught a little trout, about 5 inches long. "You caught one Danny!" They put the fish in a plastic baggie and we went home. I sat in the car and stared at the fish in my lap. Even back then, I felt sorry for it. Earlier it was swimming innocently in the pool, now here it was stuffed in a baggie.
With the tree back there in the trunk, I had thought of that little fish, coming home to its final act on this earth. Since the tree had been cut over a month ago, it was hard to think of it as a still a living thing, but it was green and it smelled like Christmas, so it still had an essence of life. I made a wooden stand for it, acutely aware of the fact that I wasn't using my old stand that held water, to keep it moist. No, this was strictly old-school. I found myself apologizing to it, as if were a sentient being. It's funny how the older I get, the more attuned I am to those things.
We brought it in and decorated it, which really took me back. Maybe it was the Christmas Tree smell that triggers it. I thought of my old train, and that stringy tinsel they used to sell, and presents under there. A ton of memories of Christmases past. And the tree does indeed have a certain spirit now. Even though it's in its final days, it's going in style. It seems happy.


  1. awww... i loved this story so much!! It brought up so many emotions and memories for me... !!! So happy you gotta tree this year. i still don't have one yet and wondering if I will... Wishing you a wonderful Christmas Dan! And do tell.. whatever happened to that fish you caught?

  2. aww thanks Shawn!...I was reminded of your wonderful tree story..yeah you should get one!
    Well as for the fish, my dad, being the fisherman that he is, he cleaned and scaled it for me...and I ate him!