I never thought I’d say this in reference to a Christmas tree, but I did yesterday: “I’m scared.”
Yesterday was our annual trip to the Christmas tree farm near our house to cut down a tree. The place is called Stokoe’s, and it does a bang-up job, with food, activities, decorations, wreaths, petting zoo, tractor rides out to the fields…you name it. We’ve gone there for our tree every year for the past decade. We go there to get pumpkins, too. I love it so much I modeled Bowen Farms, hero Casey’s pumpkin patch/inn/conference center/etc., in my Marsden books, on it. I got to interview a member of the Stokoe family and everything!
Anyway, back to the tree. Clan Denker has a size problem. Namely, Casa de Denker has 11 ft. ceilings and a bay window in the living room, and the space must. be. filled. We tend to get monster trees—not just tall, but also fat. Every year, we seek out the biggest, gnarliest tree we can find and nearly kill ourselves cutting it down and getting it into the house.
But this is the first year the tree fought back.
I had a bad feeling about it when we spotted it in the field. We dithered between it and another tree nearby, but the menfolk gravitated toward this one, which my son soon dubbed Gordo. (He’s practicing his Spanish.)
We also have a tradition where we ask the tree nicely if it would like to come with us and be our Christmas tree. I reminded my son to check with the tree, and for the first time, he said, “Yeah, right.” At the time, I put it down to the fact that the kid is now 12 and don’t truck with that sort of nonsense anymore. Looking back now, not even 24 hours after the slaughter, I realize that Gordo was putting out the vibe: “Don’t you be asking me any of that nonsense.”
Gordo telegraphed that he had absolutely no interest in being our Christmas tree. We ignored him, to our peril.
First, the cutting. It went all right, with young lumberjack son taking on quite a bit of the sawing. Husb finished it off. We went to lift it into the cart…and the top snapped off. No biggie, I thought. A shame, but we can still find some point to put the star on.
Second, the transportation. Gordo did not want to leave that field. He promptly slid off the cart not once, but several times. I’ve never seen a tree slide off these special concave wheeled carts, which cradle the tree. But Gordo did.
Flopped him onto the flatbed behind the tractor, eliciting many oohs and aahs from the candy asses who cut down trees their children could hoist on their shoulders. Amateurs. We had a tree.
Back at the barn, we dragged him off the flatbed, and Gordo was shaken out, trussed up in red string (although it was touch and go fitting him into the binding tube), then stood up to have a hole drilled in the bottom of the trunk so we could use our handy spike tree stand.
Gordo broke the drill bit.
There was smoke.
We paid (quite a bit) and hustled out of there before Gordo brought out his weapons and started fighting for his freedom.
Stuffed him into the very large trunk of husb’s ridiculously large sedan. He didn’t fit. I had to sit in the back seat and clutch at Gordo’s trunk to make sure he didn’t fall out. As if I’d ever be able to keep this monster in the car if he wanted out.
Gordo behaved on the seven-minute drive home, but it turned out he was just biding his time. We hauled him inside, hammered in the spike, and tipped him up.
Gordo filled the room, all right. I started to think maybe we’d vacate the living room till after the holidays, huddle in the kitchen maybe. Bring Gordo the blood of young puppies when he commanded it.
That tree had an attitude. He was not happy. I could feel the resentment radiating off him. It was at that point that I stated flat out that I was afraid. Afraid of a Christmas tree! It was like he was watching me…plotting…waiting…
After dinner was when the true carnage began. I started decorating. Gordo ate strings of lights; I used every strand I had and still he demanded more. “I haven’t got any more!” I howled. Gordo glared. (Yes, this damned tree glared. I saw it with my own eyes.)
Once the lights were on, my son and I started hanging the ornaments. Gordo spit them back. No lie—I have never seen a tree fling ornaments back at us. While most are nonbreakable (we’ve had multiple cats, after all), we have a few of my mother’s older ones. Last year’s tree was fine with them. Gordo, on the other hand, saw them as an opportunity.
For no reason whatsoever, a light-as-a-feather silver glass ball flew off the tree and shattered. That was a shame, but I was glad it wasn’t one of my mom’s vintage glass ornaments from the ’50s, which I never use on a tree, Gordo or otherwise. I cleaned up the shards and we continued.
Ten minutes later, the other light-as-a-feather silver glass ball hit the hardwood. More shards. Yes, I started to suspect Gordo was doing this on purpose.
By 9:30, after much hard work on kidlet’s and my part, Gordo’s decorations were complete, despite his resistance every step of the way, including his murder of the two glass ornaments. We wrestled him into submission and assured him he was pretty.
At 10:15, the kid went to bed and I took the laundry upstairs to fold it.
Twenty-two minutes later, Gordo committed suicide.
Yes, rather than be a nice Christmas tree, Gordo took what he assumed was the only way out for him. He came crashing to the ground in a magnificent display of flying limbs and whipping beaded garland (husb witnessed it). Gordo took several more glass and ceramic ornaments with him; although he tried his hardest, he was unable to slaughter the pair of computer monitors in his sights, and for that we are thankful.
We tried hoisting him back up and tying him to the wall, but Gordo would not be contained. He spat in our faces (figuratively), sending the clear message that no chains could hold him. We watched the hooks and twine strain with the effort, and made the biggest decision of this Christmas season.
We let Gordo have his way.
Gordo will soon be committed to the wood chipper, and we will go back out and find another tree. This tree was quite clear on where he stood on the whole Christmas thing, and we could either fight him tooth and nail for the next couple of weeks, resting uneasy in our beds every night, wondering what Gordo was plotting, or we could just give in. We opted for peace of mind and will be removing the evil entity from the house, and good riddance.
You were a son of a bitch, Gordo, but you knew what you wanted…and what you didn’t want. You didn’t want to be pretty.
RIP Gordo, you bastard. 2015-2015.
P.S.: Can anybody recommend a good place for pre-cut trees?