What happened to us after we chose our tree shocked us, but we hear it’s not all that uncommon.
We always shop for our tree as a family, from the early days when smaller members had to be carried into the tree lot. Now they bound around out of sight, but it’s still a family ritual. To avoid frayed nerves, we only go tree shopping and plan for no other events.. We don’t even pretend to have the focus or energy to buy a tree, carry it in AND decorate all in one night. And on this cloudy Friday evening, our aspirations were even lower because it had been a long week. The only way I could convince my wife to even go was by promising that we wouldn’t even carry the tree into our house, but would leave it on the car in the garage until the next day.
So off we went, squabbling a little about after-tree dinner choices, but in general, in a holiday mood of peace and togetherness. We arrived at the tree place, found a great parking spot and aimed ourselves toward the seven to eight-footers. “Did you bring the stand?” my wife innocently inquired. Whoops! No stand. We have to go back home.
“We’ll stay here while you drive home and get the stand,” I heard someone naively suggest.
“Everyone back in the car,” was my response and 15 minutes later but still in surprisingly good moods, we parked again and carried our stand toward the forest of trees. My daughter and I gamely tried to make a deja vu moment even more deja vu by trying to repeat our earlier conversations. I love the way kids will enter into games like that just for fun.
We searched for five or six minutes and found the “perfect” tree, like a special snowflake in a mountain of snow. “Wrap it up. We’re getting this one,” I told the South African sales guy (for some reason a good part of the crew was South African, as if their Christmas is held in July during their Winter and now they were free to work during ours). I handed him our stand while he scribbled our name and price down on a tag he then tied on the tree. We went inside a tent where we paid for our tree and garland, and I threw in some mistletoe, forever optimistic that an artificial green branch might net me more holiday action than I deserve.
Still in fine spirits, the only thing left to do was have the guys wrap the tree in netting and tie it to our car. I had a ten spot in my pocket wadded up for a tip. I sent my wife and the kids to wait in the car and I stood around for five minutes patiently waiting for the tree to be ready. After a bout of tree recognition anxiety, I realized our tree was gone!
A shorter version of our tree wearing an imitation of the family tree stand sat forlornly at the end of the parking lot. Could someone have grabbed our tree as a taller upgrade and left it’s shorter brother on the field of battle? As we and the crew searched the lot, the reality that our tree was probably already being erected elsewhere had to be discussed. I finally had to go tell the family the sad news. With flagging energy, I couldn’t imagine walking around again trying to find the perfect tree amongst the ones we’d already declined. My son, however, took the stolen tree as a symbol of a stolen Christmas that could never be put right.
The tree guys were great about the loss. While they surprisingly had very little memory of us, our stand, or our tree (after all, it had been 5 minutes), they put us on priority and let us pick from any tree on the lot. While in my son’s eyes, nothing could replace the tree he had made a life-long bond with, my wife wanted the 9-footer momentarily forgetting how hard a 7-footer is to get into the house.
Hours later, with the tree comfortably resting atop the car in the garage, we all could relax and plan for the next day’s adventure: making some cookies. But first, we’ll have to get that tree off the car and up three flights of stairs before we can finally be sure it’s ours.