I am a complete Scrooge. And a Grinch (I even wire a Ginch on the front of my car every year and then I forget he's there and wonder why people are looking at me funny. Grinchy loves thrill and the constant wash and blow-dry cycle he gets on the front bumper!). I hate Christmas. I hate the whole month of December. Christmas carols make my furious. The pressure of it all is WAY too much for me. BUT, like Scrooge and the Grinch, I always come around on the 24th and manage to enjoy Christmas once all the pressure is over. So I guess I don't hate Christmas. I just hate December 1 through 23.
Last year, Christmas shopping for three daughters on a total of $200 started out as a terrifying prospect and ended up being a huge, satisfying victory. The girls each got 12-14 gifts (many of them designer clothes) plus gifts from Santa. All this was detailed in a blog post if you care to go back and read it. Somehow, I pulled it off.
This year is scary again. I am selling painted furniture to have money for gifts ($65 so far). Sara-Grace has informed me that clothes are lame as gifts so I will have to be more creative for her this year. I'm hoping I can pull off a Christmas miracle similar to last year. I DID start Christmas shopping in JULY this year. I am very proud of that. It did alleviate some stress -- but not enough.
I have come up (again) against that annual Christmas tree issue. I HATE spending money to kill a tree and I hate buying something that I'm going to throw out in a month. But the girls feel strongly about having a live tree. I can't blame them. I felt the same way as a child.
We had a wonderful free-from-a-dumpster, pre-lit artificial tree at the house in Enid last year but we ended up selling it because it was cumbersome to store (and the girls prefer a live tree). I'm wishing I had the dumpster tree back about now.
I scouted the tree prices at Walmart: $40 for the size we like (though last year we got a smaller one and put it up on a table. But even $30 felt like a burden to me. The $20 trees were just too small to stand up to my 9-foot ceilings (even WITH a table beneath).
Inspired by friends who cut down a tree off their own property every year, I decided we would find a "freesourcefull" Christmas tree this year. After all, wasn't that how it all got started? "Back when" people could just take an ax and walk outside and cut down a tree. ALL Christmas trees were free in the beginning. As were greenery and wreaths. The whole point was to make use of the bounty of the season that was available for the gathering. How did we get so far off this freesourcefull simplicity?
After allowing the girls plenty of time to shower, dress, and fix their hair and makeup (because the trees have eyes and care about the details of grooming of teenage girls, you know), we piled into the car and drove out of down with visions of pine trees in our heads, making a joke about how we could just pluck a bush from in front of the courthouse as we went.
Well, pine trees must not be indiginous because the only ones we saw were part of someone's landscaping. Next, we looked for anything evergreen. Not much to choose from. All the evergreens were scrubby and spindly. Most were cedar to which Tessa is allergic.
Finally, after several miles of back roads, I spied a nice, full, fairly-symetrical (spruce?) tree about 10 feet on the other side of a barbed wire fence that was, conveniently, broken at just that point, leaving only the top two strands of wire. The girls rejected it, saying it was only 2 feet tall.
I jumped out and climbed through the fence and stood beside it to reveal that it was, in fact, taller than I am. Trees are deceptive that way in their native habitat, you know. So here's "our" tree: good size, great location, perfect for snatching and making a good, clean, quick getaway. But NOOOOOOO! The girls had to go on looking.
We ended up at a small lake (that shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) that, though rural, is city property. No one was around and we were the only car in the little dirt parking area so I decided to just go with the location because it was easy and no fist fights had broken out among the girls yet. I was still hoping for the Norman Rockwell Christmas tree expedition, you know.
We spied what looked like a towering pine tree in the distance and, concluding that big pine trees give birth to little pine trees, we got out and treked over to it -- not as easy a task as it sounds as distances are deceiving and forging an unseen small stream on wobbly, slippery rocks was required.
Here is a condensed and paraphrased version of my running conversation with Sara-Grace as we tromped in the woods:
S-G: "Are there bears in Arkansas?"
Me: "Yes. But not around here" (I hope.)
S-G: (now clinging to my arm) "Let's go back!"
Me: "You can see the car right there. We are safe."
S-G: "What are those foot prints?"
Me: "Labrador." (Or mountain lion).
S-G: " Let's go back!"
Me: "Let's find a tree."
S-G: "I'm scared of animals."
Me: "You're the bravest kid I know. Why are you scared NOW?"
S-G: "I just want to go."
Me: "Sara-Grace, please let go of my arm. When we walk side-by-side, I always end up in the mud" (Wishing I'd worn socks. And boots.)
Tessa: (Returning from where she'd followed Emily-the-rebel in the opposite direction.) "Emily found one!"
S-G: "Let's go home!"
Me: "Let's go see what Emily found."
Me: "Sara-Grace, all you have done is cling to me and whine since we got here!"
S-G: (Bursts into tears.)
Me: (Thinking: "I am truly the worst mom ever.")
Somehow, Emily's find gave Sara-Grace the courage to tromp up the hill after her sisters to where there stood a semi-decent tree -- a bit too tall and kinda spindly and asymetrical but not worth arguing over. It was a tree that they all agreed on which is a blessed thing.
Since all three girls agreed that this was "our" tree so, (grieving MY tree down by the road) I pulled out my battery-powered saw and began to cut the trunk. The battery gave out about half an inch into the process. So we tromped down the hill, across the creek, and back to the car for another battery. And the reversed the process to get back to the tree. Just then, about a dozen people appeared out of the woods from three different directions. There I am standing there with my bright orange power saw looking all guilty (which I am).
We let the people pass by (as Tessa-the-law-abiding retreated to the car to hide) then went back to cutting down the tree even though I knew the sound carried. Battery two sounded all zippy until about 3/4 of the way through when it, too, gave out. Emily manhandled the tree onto it's side and it was done. Then my cell phone rang. It was Tessa calling to tell me that the police had arrived. Great! I'm going to jail! At least they feed you there.
Call #2 came to say that the police car had left. Maybe I'm not going to jail after a tree that no one would miss after all?
I grabbed the trunk of the tree and began pulling it down the hill, and through the mud, and across the creek. Just before I got to the parking area, someone said they thought the police car was waiting down the road. So I ditched the tree off to the side of the path and piled everyone into the car. If worse came to worst, I could come back for it later. Or get the one by the fence that I'd wanted in the first place.
We drove down the road a couple of miles and, finding no police stake-out. I turned around and went back for that darned tree.
Of course, when we arrived back at the parking spot, there was a truck with a couple of men and a bunch of kids there. I waited and they began to walk off into the woods. As soon as they were out of sight, I grabbed my tree and hurled in on top of the car. Just as the bungee cords came out, one of the men came back to his truck (probably to make sure we weren't stealing his stuff because we were acting so suspicious!). Committed, I continued to secure the tree and then drove off.
On the road out, everyone one had a meltdown. Tessa balled me out for being a criminal and said we never do anything "HER WAY"! I made the mistake of giggling (because I was already composing this blog post in my heard). BAD idea! Emily growled at me for having grabbed her phone off the car seat to take photos with without her royal highness's royal permission (without regard to the fact that the big people pay the phone bill and, thus, it is not good to yell at the big people). Sara-Grace was just glad to be safe from bears, I suspect.
I was thinking as I drove that maybe the Grinch wired to the front of my car and the stolen tree strapped to the top made me pretty darn conspicuous -- but were were also, very much in the spirit of Grinch-ness because, as the girls pointed out, the Grinch DID steal the Christmas tree, you know!
We got the tree home, cleared a path to the living room, dragged the tree in, dragged out the skill saw to trim the tree down so the top foot of it wasn't curved up onto the ceiling, shocked myself stringing lights into it, managed to keep it from toppling over several times, and finally managed to hang enough ornaments on it (for now) before I had to run off to my evening job.
Somewhere in there, I was even able to cut the branches off the trimmed-off bottom section of the trunk which were just enough to adorn the mandle, swaddle the manger, fill a planter box on the front porch, and fill the two big flower pots the flanked the front door. LOVED that part of the freesourcefullness of it! THIS is what Christmas is supposed to be!
Later in the evening, as I was pricking my arms on the tree placing more ornaments while trying to hold the tree upright lest it topple over (again), Emily wandered in, laughed, and told me I was cute. That's the same thing she said when my fiasco gingerbread house collaped. Perhaps "cute" = "pathetic"?
Later, when Emily and I crossed paths in the kitchen, she said she was glad we had gotten a freesourcefull tree because it had been a good adventure.
Maybe I'm not such a bad mom after all.