“And the Trophy Goes To…”
For the rest of us, we really start getting pumped when we hit the tree lot. You see, there is far more at stake here than just getting a tree – there’s a title on the line. The “Winning Tree Picker Outer” trophy comes up for grabs every year. This tradition came about after a several-year winning streak by yours truly. When the family twigged to the fact that for two or three years running I had been the Finder of the Perfect Tree, they revolted.
“Enough!” they shouted, and they set about seeking to wrest the title from my delicate hands. It’s tough, I’ve learned, being a winner. It puts a bull’s eye on your back; it really does. Hence, our annual trek to the tree has become a good-natured contest to find the best one.
For years we had gotten our trees at a cut-it-yourself place, which the boys have always loved. This year, however, the lure of the Chief proved to be too great. After some discussion, they reluctantly agreed to break with “terdition,” as the nine year old calls it, and pick out a precut tree if – and only if – we could get some pints.
“Are we there yet?” I cried, mouth watering at the thought of the butter pecan. Either, I mused, it would be a great way to celebrate winning or I would self-medicate with it if – dark thought – one of the hoodlums won the title.
Imagine, then, the utter dismay that fell upon us when we were greeted with the news that The Last Pint Had Just Been Sold. In a trice the little mob had chucked the spoons and staged a protest. (PETA only wishes they were so efficient.) When we caught up to them, they were marching past the firs with homemade signs chanting, “More pints! More pints!” and “I scream, you scream, we all scream…” You get the picture. Adding insult to injury, it was actually the Head Hoodlum who found the perfect tree. Being, of course, unable to ease the pain with butter pecan, I had to settle for carry-out chips and salsa from nearby Hacienda. There was no balm in Gilead!
In reality, it was a blessing for the Hoodlum Mentioned Above. It was a redemption of sorts for him. You see, the first year we ever got a tree, he was the sole picker-outer. Apparently his checklist was about two questions long, including, “Does it have branches?” and, “Are there at least six needles?” Nothing on that list about a trunk, is there? Big mistake, as he found out after sweating and laboring to get it (with its very crooked trunk) into a reasonably upright position. We had no more than placed the last ornament when the whole thing toppled over at our feet.
As I learned that day, it is entirely possible to tap dance while holding up a tree even though all that’s showing of the Tree King is ankles. I also learned that if you’re going to laugh like a hyena while you’re up to your left armpit in pine needles, you should be standing on the opposite side of the tree. Clearly, someone wasn’t feeling the “ho-ho-ho.”
Then there was the year he ended up on the business end of a pine tree; that is to say, underneath it. To this day he can’t explain how it happened. One minute he was wrestling it in the door and the next minute he was on his back, pinned by a giant pine. Why is it that when you really shouldn’t laugh…?
The boys and I are already making plans for next year. Starting next summer, we’re going to lay in a big supply of butter pecan and mint chip so as not to be caught flatfooted when it’s time for the annual contest. It’s likely that Mr. Winner will be too busy polishing his trophy to notice. Although, knowing from experience how tiring it can be, carrying that bull’s eye around on your back all year, and since the season is all about sharing, maybe we’ll relent and share a pint or two. Once we hit that lot, however, all bets are off.