Christmas

“There are no Christmas trees to be had anywhere,” I said to Robin, after prospecting Wal-mart, City Market, and Safeway the day after Thanksgiving.
That didn’t stop Robin from meticulously decorating the house with Christmas cutesies and the familiar ornaments I admire every year come December, even the potpourri bowl got a shot of redolent red holiday entanglements that smell like . . . frankincense and myrrh. I suppose. Delicate frosted glass snowmen adorn the entertainment center, their outstretched arms and mouths agape lend the impression of carolers. Not to be up staged are the Santas; fat Santas, flat Santas, wooden Santas, tea kettle Santas, action figure Santas cavorting with reindeer and the like. We have holiday fabrics too; table runners and kitchen table clothes with shimmering gold tinsel threads laced between shades of cranberry that have an uncanny way of disguising the home made salsa I just slopped.
After two days of arranging and rearranging its perfect, elves couldn’t have done better, yet this sylvan creation lacks a focal point: we need a tree.
“Surely they should have Christmas trees by now, don’t cha think?” Robin said.
“I would hope so; Christmas is right around the corner.”
“Would you like to come to town and shop for one with me?”
“Thanks but no thanks. I trust you’ll bring home a fine tree. I’ll just hang out here and finish pluming the hot water heater.”
Historically, my Christmas tree acquisitions have been . . . flops — literally speaking. They have a half life of nine ornaments before going to ground. After a couple of hours, she returns home shopping bags in tow, a telltale pine branch sticking out of the bed of the truck.
“Did you find a good one?” I ask.
“Yes, its perfect; just the right height.”
“How much did you pay for it?”
“Fifty dollars.”
“Fi . . . fi . . . fifty bucks!” I croaked.
“It’s Okay Gene.”
She knows I’m teasing, at least I think she knows I’m teasing, however; Christmas wisdom tells me not to push my luck; I know better than spoil the holiday Zeitgeist.
Later, I walk outside to inspect the tree, tripping over the stand Robin conveniently placed next to the steps for me to find. It’s when I drop the tail gait I realize this is no ordinary tree; its sleek, its straight, it has precise symmetry and a perfect crown, its some kind of genetic hybrid, grown special by Christmas mavens who know how to gene splice a blue spruce with a Doug fir, after a hundred years of selective breeding: race horses aren’t this perfect. And the best part — in 2.5 minutes it’s in the stand, stalk-straight and ornament ready — and I’m back in a recliner in front of the Broncos game.
During the commercials I watch Robin methodically decorate it, lights first, then just the right smattering of ornaments and of course; another Victorian Santa on top.
“You’re doing a marvelous job, honey.”
“This is the best Christmas tree we have ever had,” she said.
“Ain’t it though . . . best fifty bucks I’ve ever spent.

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