The Quarantimes Week 38: The Right Tree for 2020

December 3rd, 2020

In the morning, on the way to school, Phoebe, gazing up at the telephone wires, asks, “Mama, why does the air have to be inside the wires? Can’t it just be with the other air?”

I did my best to explain the concept of the wires, which is to say, I now realize I have no idea whether they are telephone wires, cable wires, electrical wires, or all three, and quite frankly, I have no idea how they work. But I do know that when a tree falls on them, they don’t.

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Speaking of trees, I really wanted to join the fray and get a Christmas tree up shockingly early this year, but I hit a snag with the family. Normally we do the Christmas-tree-lot thing. There’s a wonderful place in Dummerston, Vermont, called Elysian Hills Tree Farm where you can choose a perfectly shaped fir tree, get help loading it onto your car, and also enjoy hot chocolate and s’mores over a campfire. It’s a whole experience, and we’ve done it for years.

This year, though, I was hellbent on hauling our own tree out of the weeds, 70s-style. We are surrounded by acres and acres of pine forest here on our hill in Guilford, and what better way to really earn that tree than to haul it up our big-ass hill?

Jon fought me on this. He wanted to support local business (dagger straight to my heart, as this is my weakness) and avoid killing a tree that might otherwise thrive in the forest. All valid points. But I could not shake the vision of my family hauling our chosen tree out of the woods and up the hill to our house without engaging in capitalist culture or having to be around other humans in the times of COVID. 

She persisted.

The second hurdle was agreeing on a tree. I found this one on our first of several ventures into the woods. 

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It was close to the house, relatively modest and unassuming, and had that perfectly imperfect je ne sais quoi all good Christmas trees possess. Phoebe did not see the vision, however, and argued that it was much too small. (Note that she is standing on a hillock here.)

Kids aren’t that great at envisioning proportion, it turns out. She and Eliza consistently pointed out trees that wouldn’t fit in Times Square, never mind inside our normal-sized house. It was only on our third trip into the woods that I wore everyone down to the point they agreed to at least “try” this tree. I told the girls that if it didn’t work out, we could scrap it and go to the Christmas tree lot, as Jon looked at me dubiously, knowing he’d be the one to do all the manual labor.

I have to mention here that I have a weird gift for spatial relations after many years of buying food in bulk at co-ops and then transferring it to mason jars in my kitchen. Ask anyone who has witnessed it; I always know exactly which jar to use. It’s not a monetizable skill, but it’s a handy domestic talent. So naturally, the tree is perfect in our living room, and it’s exactly what I wanted for 2020: It isn’t quite straight. It’s got a lot of holes. It’s already losing needles. And it’s ours.

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Now, getting it to stand up straight in our decades-old Christmas-tree stand was another matter. Another tradition I suspect I’m not alone in: the annual getting really frustrated at the tree and swearing and yelling while the kids just will not leave it alone and eventually pull it down just when you finally have it up. I spend hours questioning why I ever thought this was a good idea — why did anyone in the history of man ever think this was a good idea??

But when everyone else is finally asleep and I’m alone in the living room with a quiet, sparkly tree full of nostalgic treasures, indeed it’s all worth it.

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What I’m reading:

A heartwarming local Christmas story: ‘Life needs candles’: Anonymous donor pays for 50 $100 grocery cards

What I’m watching:

The Crown. This is some next-level escapist awesomeness. As usual I’m late to the party.

What I’m eating:

Our low-key Thanksgiving was quite lovely with our usual little pod. I made two new recipes I have to share because they were so delicious:

  1. Pull-apart sour cream chive rolls

  2. Miso butter shallots

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