We got our Christmas tree this weekend. We went to a tree farm where you wander around a thicket until you find a tree you'd like to kill. You cut the thing down with a borrowed saw and drag it to a muddy path. There you wait for an ATV with a wagon attached to the back. You toss your tree in the wagon and ride back to tree farm headquarters.
It's a fairly easy process. Not as easy as most years when we barely stop the car to throw a dried-out, $10 tree into the trunk. But I thought the extra effort would make for a fond yuletide memory. I don't think Allie would agree. She fell down and got some mud and grass on her pink pants. That ruined the entire experience for her. While Deb and I stared at tree-after-tree eyeballing them for perfect symmetry, branch density and height Allie cried about her pants.
Turns out tree farms make many children unhappy. I noticed two other kids in tears while we tried to find a tree. Crying children always add a sense of urgency to a situation. Plus, it got to a point where all the trees began to look alike and it wouldn't have mattered if I'd cut down a mailbox and strung some lights on the thing. We just wanted to get back to the car before Julia lost her fingers to frostbite and Allie would be satisfied we were finally headed some place with a stain stick.
Fortunately we found a decent little spruce and the saw I had made quick work of the trunk. We dragged it to the path and rode back to the parking lot. We paid $25 plus I slipped a kid a buck when he came over and helped me tie the tree to the roof rack of our car. "You know how to tie a slip knot?" he asked.
"Well, I. I think I've. You know I'm not. I'm pretty sure. A slip knot, huh. . ."
It was clear I couldn't tie a slip knot. My manhood had been compromised by my lack of knot knowledge. Where was this kid just a few moments ago when I sliced through a tree trunk like it was made out of marzipan?
The kid looked at me, smiled and said, "That's okay, I just learned how to make one today." He then showed me, twice, how to tie a slip knot. I still couldn't tie one to save my life, but I felt better about my lack of skill with twine and that was worth an extra buck. I handed him the bill and he looked at me like I'd just handed him the keys to a new Porsche. He was very enthusiastic as he walked around our car checking the tree to make sure it wasn't going to budge off the roof rack. Maybe he thought there were a bunch of other bills folded beneath the single buck I gave him. Regardless, we shared a beautiful moment.
The tree is still in our garage. I'm not too concerned about getting it into our living room. It's the freshest tree we've ever had so I'm extremely confident it'll hold on to every needle until January when it's time to place it by the curb.
Allie's fine, by the way. I'm sure her pants will also be okay. However, her perspective on holiday giving might need a little work. Allie gave some money out of her piggy bank to The Empty Stocking Club benefiting needy youths in our area. Later, when I asked her why it was important to give to strangers she said, "You give to strangers so they're nice to you and won't hurt you." It's easy to see where this came from. Deb and I have trained Allie that when dealing with strangers always err on the side of caution. So, for Allie, The Empty Stocking Club is nothing more than a protection racket.
I tried to set things straight. I know that concepts like sharing, charity and empathy aren't too difficult to get across to Allie. She's a sweet little girl. But I didn't do as good a job as I would have liked. I just know the next time she sees me drop some change into a little red bucket she's going to think I'm doing it to keep the Salvation Army volunteer from bashing me in the head with his/her bell.