We got our Christmas tree the other day. One of my sisters, we’ll call her “Three,” had the charming idea this year to get a live Christmas tree. Sounds great, right? I remember we got one once when I was little. It was tiny (even when I was like 8 it looked tiny), but it came in a pot that was almost as big as the tree and probably weighed at least 300 pounds. Well, obviously not really, but dirt is heavy, and this pot was full of (literally this time) about 3 gallons of it. The pot was made of that sort of shredded cardboard-looking material that eventually degrades and becomes one with nature, or whatever, the idea being that, after Christmas all one had to do was dig a hole in the ground and drop the whole assemblage in. We were all pretty excited and downright heartwarmed by our spindly little friend, and feeling pretty good about ourselves. The trouble is that it’s just goddamn difficult to dig a hole in the ground in Taos, NM in January. Our mother fought the good fight, I’m sure, but in the end the poor tree ended up sitting rootbound and exposed in our yard for several months before it finally went in the ground. It survived, but it didn’t look happy and I’m not sure, frankly, that it thanked us much for our consideration in keeping it alive.
Still, I do like the idea. Chopping down a bunch of trees for the hell if it seems unnecessarily wasteful. So when Three proposed it this year, despite our history, my other sister (“Four”) and I were on board. On the plus side we don’t have to dig a hole for this one because it’s more like a tree-renting service. (Who knew you could rent a tree?) Still, we’re having mixed feelings about our decision. Three took it upon herself to call the gentleman in charge and discuss what kind and size of tree we were looking for. They purported to need to know in advance so that they could bring a suitable tree to the lot and reserve it for us. Fancy. Three figured she could then go on her lunch break the next day and pick it up from his lot and drop it off at our house. Unless Four and I would rather just go get it. Sure, we said, we could get a tree from a man at a lot. All we had to do was call the man and make sure he had a tree for us and find out where he was. Of course that’s where things started to unravel.
Four called the gentleman who turned out to actually be in a neighboring town, but said he could meet us at 3:45 at an intersection which he specified. Call it 30th and Virgil. Alright. Did he need to check our name against a reserved tree? He did not. Okay. Four and I arrived at the meet a few minutes early only to discover she’d missed a message telling us they were running late. The intersection turned out to be next to a church in an otherwise residential neighborhood. We sat across the street in her car, eyeballing passing vehicles in the failing light. After about twenty minutes of lurking we were feeling a little sketchy. We began to wonder if we should flash our headlights at likely candidates who might then pull alongside and palm our sixty dollars cash and twenty dollar deposit check and slip us some “holiday cheer.”
When the gentleman called her to ask her where, in relation to another street, Virgil was located we began to suspect his sanity. “It’s one block south,” she explained. “So you’re two blocks north? Okaaaay.” We drove three blocks and pulled over next to a rental truck, two men, and a tree, and popped the trunk. One of the men silently attended the hand truck upon which the tree rested, tied head to toe, it’s roots bound in a burlap bindle crisscrossed haphazardly by twine. The other man greeted us with what we would quickly come to think of as his characteristic effusive vagueness.
“Should we put down the seats?” we asked.
We’d been told to bring towels to use as a sling to maneuver the tree, but when we asked if we should use them Chatty shrugged and said “If you want to!” Instead they lay down a trash bag in our trunk upon which they rested the root ball while the rest of the tree stood straight up out of the trunk.
“So we give you a check for twenty dollars for the deposit?” asked Four.
“Yeah,” he said.
“In case we decide to steal the tree?” we joked.
“Nah, but sometimes something happens. It’s only like one out of a hundred trees, you know, but I’ve got to be sure!”
“And we owe you…? Sixty dollars for the actual tree?”
“Is it actually sixty?”
“Okay… And we give it back to you… at some point?”
“We just call you again?”
“And we’re supposed to return it by… the 6th? The 5th?”
“Yeah! Around then!”
They provided us with a bucket lined with a black garbage bag which was, in turn, lined with “cotton” (strips of what looks like the snap-fronts of a series of Dr. Denton pajamas) and explained how to line it with another garbage bag before we put the tree in it.
“So that the tree isn’t actually sitting in the cotton,” I clarified, and received a high five.
We carefully drove away, thankful that we only lived thirteen blocks away, and counting each one as the tree listed steadily to the right.
We did get the tree home without mishap, though the trunk tried to close on it. It took both of us to haul it out of the car and into the house, hoisting the root ball by hanks of twine, and get it situated in its bucket, rags, and series of garbage bags. It’s a charming enough little tree, I’m pretty sure it weighs at least 300 pounds. And it’s still listing to the right.