Oh #$%^&$ Christmas tree

this column first ran in a newspaper in Dec. 2002.

Once again, we’ve settled our annual Christmas dispute.

For as long as we’ve been married my wife and I have disagreed about when we should put up our Christmas tree.

My wife thinks we should put the tree up shortly after the Fourth of July while I think we should wait until the last showing of  It’s a Wonderful Life.”

It’s quite a difference of opinion.

My wife sees the Christmas tree as a symbol of peace and joy that truly represents the holiday season.

I see it as a giant pain in the Limbaugh.

Again, it’s quite a difference of opinion.

My feelings about Christmas trees probably can be traced back to childhood memories of my Dad sprawled out on our living room floor looking for the one burned-out light among the 583 bulbs that were slowly wrapping themselves around him.

In those days, an entire strand of Christmas lights, which were designed by sadists, would go out if just one bulb on the strand went out.

At least that’s what the sadists said. The truth was the burned-out bulb didn’t have to be on the same strand. Or even in the same house.

One year a bulb burned out on a stand of lights on the other end of town and knocked out of the lights on our tree.

That was the year I first heard my dad mix religion with profanity.

When I was single, I didn’t even bother with a tree, although one year I did paint my dog green, put him in a corner in my apartment and said “STAY!”.

But we have a border collie now, and if you don’t know, they can be a bit hyper.

If you were to take a group of four-year-old’s, force feed them refined sugar for two straight days and then turn them loose in a Chuckie Cheese you might have the energy equivalent of one border collie.

So, getting our dog to stay in the corner for the holiday season is sort of out of the question.

This year, on the second Sunday in December (Way too earlier if you ask me) my wife, our 3-year-old daughter Emma and I got into the car and headed to the Christmas tree farm.

I love the Christmas tree farm. I always feel one with nature when I walk through the miles and miles of gorgeous new growth. As I walk, I breathe in the fresh air rich with the scent of pine and marvel at what a wonderful thing a fully-grown pine tree is and its place in this giant universe that we all share.

Then I hack one down.

The actual hacking of tree isn’t too hard. It’s finding the tree worthy of hacking that’s tough.

Here is what a typical tree hunt with my wife and Emma sounds like.

Me: This looks like a good one.

Wife: Mike, that’s a stump.

Me: How about this one?

Wife: I like this one better.

Emma: I have to go potty.

Me: What about this one?

Wife: I think we’re lost.

Emma: Now, I have to really go potty.

Because I am a male person I, at times, come down with what is known as the “Clark Griswald Syndrome” which means I feel obligated to pick a tree that is-technically speaking-bigger than our house.

Of course, to get a Christmas tree that is bigger than our house into our house I have to do a little trimming.

One year I got so carried away with my trimming, when I was finished, we wound up with a Christmas toothpick.

After trimming the tree, I drag it through the door and into the house leaving behind a trail of pine needles that we will still be finding in August and wait until my wife finds the tree stand which she said was “Somewhere in the basement.”

Two hours later my wife finds the stand and it is time to place the tree into the stand. This involves me wrapping my arms around the tree and lifting it up and down while my wife tries to place the stand under the tree.

This takes a while.

After about an hour and the exchange of many, many personal insults that will be brought up for years to come, the tree is finally in the stand.

Then after tightening the little-to use a technical phrase-holder things the tree is safely in place and my wife and I step back, look at it and say the same thing.

“It didn’t look that crooked at the tree farm.”

After tilting all of the furniture in our house so that the tree would look straight, we dig into the ornaments and begin decorating the tree.

My wife loves decorating the tree. Not only does my wife love decorating the tree she loves to tell a story about each of the roughly 2,437 Christmas ornaments that have to be hung.

As a trained journalist-which means that in a blind test taste I am able to tell the difference between beer from a bottle and beer on tap-I try to avoid making sweeping generalizations. But here goes.

All women love decorating Christmas trees while all men hate decorating Christmas trees.

Here is a quick quiz to prove my point.

You find a box of tinsel. What do you do?

A: You take each individual piece of tinsel and carefully hang it exactly one-quarter of an inch between the nearest ornament on the tree. You do this until every piece of tinsel is in its proper place.

B: You grab all of the tinsel in the box and toss on the tree.

C: You flush the tinsel down the toilet.

If you answered “A” you’re a woman. If you answered “B” you’re a man and if you answered “C” you’re Emma.

I do have to admit that this year-as it does every year-when we were finished, the tree looked great.

And later that night, after Emma was safely tucked away in bed, I turned off the lights in our house and my wife and I sat on the couch staring at the twinkling lights on the tree. Then we will look at each other and say the same thing we say every year.

“Seriously, it didn’t look that crooked at the tree farm.”