I somehow managed to write a few Christmas tree stories over the past five writing years. I love Christmas trees. I wondered how the Corona virus was going to affect the Christmas tree this year. We already knew how it would affect our lives. Some very badly and some very mildly, just like the illness itself. A COVID kind of Christmas was certainly not on the Easter Parade radar this past spring. A serious and sometimes deadly inconvenience would surely not dare to be around during the most wonderful time of the year. And it would surely not be around in the state and county who were on their very best pandemic behavior all throughout the spring. Who would have guessed that lockdown, law-abiding Los Angeles would say “the hell with it” by the time Thanksgiving rolled around? A cold, masquerading as a virus scare by my younger son kept our lone LA relative home for Thanksgiving this year. I did have to draw the line over my carving my own turkey, though, and had him carve it in the backyard when he came for his drive by Thanksgiving dinner pickup.
The pandemic has made me slow, hence the publishing of this piece now instead of last week. I’m late for things no matter how hard I try not to be. Things take so much longer, like tying my shoes. I don’t suppose it’s that COVID-19 pounds I added around the middle that has anything to do with it. Some days, I’m just happy I can still see my feet, never mind reach them. But I love decorating for Christmas. Getting the tree, well, not so much, since I go solo now with grown sons not about to accompany me on the hour long visit to the tree lot. I’ve never had a fake tree and not about to start now. No way corona is robbing me of that simple pleasure this year, although I soon found out it almost did.
I’ve been going to the same Christmas tree lot near home for close to twenty years at least. I like to go early in the afternoon during the week when all the people are still working. I often have the place to myself. Makes it easy to wander around and inspect the trees until I find one worthy. I set out on the 11th of December. That was late for me to begin my tree search, but like everything else it seemed I could only do things in slow motion. I got there about 4pm and was stunned to see every spot in the small parking lot taken. What the heck is going on, I though. How could so many people be here at this time? No way I’m going in there. With that many people in one place, all I see is round red corona virus balls floating in the air. I figured I would wait until Monday when hopefully they would all get back in their houses where they belonged.
On Monday morning, I set out early at ten to beat the next rush, or so I thought. I got to the lot and I was stunned to see about maybe eight or so trees left. No tents, no nothing, just a big truck pulled up to the little payment shack loading stuff. I pulled in anyway. The truck driver nodded towards the owner off in the distance near what was left of this tree lot. Can I still buy a tree, I asked, that is if I could find one in this mess. There were trees flocked with horrible looking blue or bright red paint. The snow looking flocked ones were out of the question since once I touched them, I had all that crap on my hands. After that there was a collection of nobles and Dougs that would have made Charlie Brown cringe. I made up my mind I was getting my tree here today, anyway. I circled and circled the ones standing up; a few I had to lift and get them back on there feet. This was now the 14th of December. What happened, I asked the owner? I’ve never seen this place close so early. He told me about how the double threat of the recent California fires and COVID caused all the trees to be gone. There was a shortage of trees this year because of the fires and with so many people staying home this year, they all wanted real trees. That part made me smile. I was glad to think that maybe this year was special enough to do something different for many families who won’t get to travel to see their loved or barely tolerated ones this year. Perhaps, the frugal figured why get a fake tree if they won’t need it next year and got a real one this year instead. Perhaps some young parents with even younger kids wanted to share the magic that only a real tree can impart to spruce up the end of this trying year. Whatever the reason, it’s a good one. I meandered about and did my usual wavering back and forth between a few but that gut feeling that says “this is your tree” was not shouting at me yet. On the next round around the unbelievably small lot area, I saw one lying on its side. Can we straighten this one up, I asked? He did and there it was, our Corona Christmas tree. He tied it on the roof and off we went to my driveway to await one of my sons to be not busy enough or not ignore me enough to take it off and put it in inside.
There always seems to be a customary Christmas tree spot in everyone’s home. I dabbled a little two years ago and moved it from our usual spot near my family room bookshelf wall to the upstairs dining room/den, more to break up the pain of the new divorce than for any real aesthetic purpose. Last year we put it back where it belonged just like we did with the pain. A good parental Christmas truce, a long time coming, was a much-needed gift for our sons. This year the tree was moving again out of quarantine need as its corner belonged now to my eldest, home on furlough for these nine longs months from his job working for a really kind lady. The minute the pandemic hit, she had to close her office and send him home and she did so with his pay intact even though he could not work at home at all. This was before the COVID cash cow showed up. Even when he could have made three times more money collecting the government’s COVID cash, my son refused. He’s set up his video gaming in that corner and I didn’t want to move it now for the tree. We went to the other side of the room and now the tree sits proudly in front of the fireplace, its smaller girth and height making it a perfect fit.
Five days after we brought her home, the tree still sits bare, a stark reminder of the pandemic holiday lethargy that has engulfed me no matter how hard I try to keep it bay. The lights upon the tree and outside the house has fallen to my younger son, since Dad had to relinquish the task three years ago by decree. Since then I’ve always left the outside lights up to his mood. Last year he scrambled right before his father got here to spend the holidays, as if to say, I’ve got this Dad, now, don’t worry. This year his holiday spirit kicked in early and he went to town on both the front and back of the house. This year it was all him, as Dad can’t make the trip south because of the quarantine. I nagged him half-heartedly all week to put the Christmas tree lights on for me. That part I just can’t do myself. I started the nagfest on Monday and by Friday night just as I was about to walk out the door, he decided it would be a fine time to do it. I took my coat off, helped him and didn’t even scold him for his poor timing. How much water goes in the tree, he asked. What? Didn’t you put water in on Monday when I brought it home? Apparently not, as COVID has reduced his listening to me on as needed basis- his need, not mine. O boy, sure glad the tree didn’t go on fire, my old paranoid parenting persona said. From what exactly, he asked? I didn’t answer. Just glad the tree now had lights, five days later. Unfortunately, lights now meant that ornaments could be hung by people who really don’t care this year. I thought about doing it on Saturday and then again on Sunday. Ornament hanging has been my job for years now since the boys grew up. This year a monumental ornamental procrastination set in that I was hoping I could shake. On Sunday night I mentioned to my older son, the one in the Christmas tree’s former corner, that maybe he could help me decorate on Monday morning. That was met with silence by a kid who hasn’t touched an ornament since he was like ten.
I got up at 6am today, eleven days after I started the quest for a COVID Christmas tree. I knew I had to get this darn thing done today or the ‘why bother’ would cement itself into my head. I had coffee, messed around on social media, texted a few folks and then by around 9, I couldn’t ignore it any longer. My older son was up before me and already down in his corner. I walked into the room saying Marco, can we put ornaments on the tree and as I entered the room, the words floated away. The tree was completed decorated. He looked at me with a tiny curving of the mouth corners, keeping his distant cool. I let only a few tears fall. There’s not a thing that could be put under this tree that could match this gift he gave me. We used to put an Angel atop our tree until my younger son saw his Aunt Rachel’s lit star on her tree one year in New York. He loved it, she gave it to him to take home and it has adorned the top of our tree ever since. No one but Max has really been able to get the darn thing to stay up there, though, so rather than wait, the old Angel was pulled out of her bag and put on the tree. In a year where COVID has turned so many people’s lives upside down and where loss has been so great, we must cherish the things we’ve found because of it too. For me, for now, it’s a tree I don’t have to decorate.
ONE MORE CUP OF COFFEE BEFORE YOU GO
If you like what you read please consider a cup of coffee to keep the writing steam going. If not, just happy you came, you saw, you read.. Happy Holidays