A couple of posts back I told the story about how I was talked into having a live Christmas tree a decade or so ago. That was a humbling experience for me, especially since I had made a solemn vow, many years before, to never have a live Christmas tree again. Because reliving the memory is so unpleasant, I seldom tell the story of why I made that vow. But I’ve been asked, so here is the tale, filled with pathos and pain. If you laugh, I’ll find out about it…I promise.
It was Christmas of 1976. To be more precise, it was a Saturday morning three weeks after Christmas and long after the tree had come down and all the Christmas decorations had been packed away for another year. At that time, we still had a live Christmas tree each year. Well, I suppose “live” is a relative term. It was alive sometime during the autumn months but it was well on the way to dying a noble death by the time we bought it to celebrate Christmas. It was dead and buried by three weeks after Christmas.
Our son Brian was nearly three years old in 1976 and Saturday mornings were a special time for both him and me. We’d get up at 7:00 AM, make breakfast of Fruit Loops with sliced bananas and then sit in front of the TV for the next five hours to watch cartoons. It was bonding at its best.
This particular Saturday, everything started out according to plan. I awoke at 6:50 with Brian sitting on my stomach, cereal bowl in hand. I rubbed enough sleep out of my eyes to navigate and we shuffled off to the kitchen, barefoot as usual, to make our breakfast. Having done this many times, I had it down to a science and at 6:59 we were heading for the Bugs Bunny and Road Runner hour. We made it through the kitchen, dining room and about half way through the living room without incident. Did I mention that the living room had a green long shag carpet?
Just short of the coffee table where we would vegetate for the morning, things went bad…really, really bad. A pine needle, from the Christmas tree now long gone, jumped up from the carpet in a kamikaze attack on my big toe. As I remember it, it was twelve inches long, and pointed like a medieval lance. It entered just under the toenail and sliced through my toe like the dagger it was. This was a logical point of entry as it kept the needle going straight until it exited at my heel.
Surprise pain being what it is, I reacted by jerking my foot off the floor. On the way up, my foot struck the coffee table, breaking the dried out needle off flush with the front of my toe. This extra little jolt of pain caused me to throw my left arm and hand up in a futile attempt to maintain my balance. The cereal bowl was in my left hand. Did I mention that the ceiling fan in the living room was on?
The blades of the fan struck my hand, breaking one finger and bruising three others. The cereal bowl, filled with Fruit Loops, bananas, milk and prodigious amounts of sugar, was caught and flung across the room. Side note – A ceiling fan moving at 300 RPM has an impressive ability to disperse medium quantities of liquids and small solids. Linda was not amused with the clean-up.
Things get a bit murky after that. I remember Brian yelling, “Mommy, Mommy, Daddy falled down an’ he’s saying bad, bad words.” I remember screaming in agony for the ten minute drive to the hospital.
I remember the emergency room doctor looking at my foot in awe and then laughing uncontrollably after he found out how it happened. Finally, I remember promising Linda, through a drug-induced haze, that we would never, never have another live Christmas tree.
It took almost a month for me to fully recover from that experience. Even today my big toe throbs when the weather cools and Christmas approaches. I’ve only broken my vow one time in the intervening years and that was under the incredible duress I detailed in that prior post. My goal is to make it for the rest of my days without ever again causing the premature death of a pine tree. It’s not that I have any deep-seated conviction about killing trees; it’s just that I don’t think that it’s prudent to tempt fate.
Unfortunately, as I’ve said before, I have the world’s cutest granddaughters. My fear is that someday one of them will crawl on to my lap and look at me with a pouty face and adorable big eyes and ask, “Papa, can’t you get a real live Christmas tree…just for me”? That won’t be a good day. I know my limitations. Oh well, I suppose I could get that pair of steel-toed house slippers.
And that Virginia is why, while there may be a Santa Claus, he’s not going smell fresh sap dripping from the branches of the Christmas tree in our house any time soon.