o tannenbaum.

We usually get our Christmas tree from the Citgo, which sounds like the kind of Christmas tradition you'd see in a sad movie with a drunk father. But you can get nice trees there, because an Ashe County farm sets up a sale next to the gas station. They were exceedingly nice the first time we went, just like you'd expect people who grow Christmas trees for a living to be, and so we've just kept going back.

This year, we ordered a tree and some other decorative greens through our church as part of a youth group fundraiser. The prices were about the same, though we did not get the fun of picking out the tree. When Josh was little, his grandfather used to take him and all his other little boy cousins out tromping into the wintry woods to cut down a tree. From this experience, Josh formed the idea that tree-cutting was man's work, which is why last year he went to get the tree by himself while I stayed home and made hot cocoa. I pointed out that had there been any girl cousins, they probably would've come too. But it was okay, because I tend to get a fever at the Citgo and end up picking out a comically large tree. In the interest of having space in the living room, it was better for me to stay home. But his year, there was no bundling up, going to the gas station, walking through the makeshift forest of evergreens before picking out just the right one. Instead, I filled out an order form in November, and then last Saturday drove over to the church, where two young men found the order with my name on it.

Being mindful of overlarge trees past, I had ordered a tree in the 7-8 ft range. The guys picked up my tree, all bound up in red twine, and asked where it was going. I pointed to the red hatchback. They looked skeptical, and said, "On top?" I asked if they had anything to tie it down with, and their eyes said no. Well, kids, do you know about the Honda Fit? You're about to see something special.

We had to turn it around once and adjust it a bit this way and that, plus folding down the back row and leaning back the front passenger seat, but we finally closed the hatch on a giant tree. One kid was really into it, cleverly suggesting that I remove the headrest on the passenger set to make room. The other kid just looked confused by the whole thing. We got needles everywhere and a little dirt on the seats, but I am not one to be deterred by needles and dirt. I suppose if I didn't want to get dirt in my hatchback, I would've gotten a pickup truck.

When I got the tree home, I realized we'd have to cut a few of the bottom branches to get it to fit into the tree stand. I'm going to take a moment to put in a plug for our particular tree stand. It's really nice. We've gone through 4 tree stands in as many years. The first year, we found ourselves in a tree stand emergency and bought one at Lowes, which we did not like because it was boring green plastic. Over the course of the next year, we found one of those vintage red and green metal ones, but it ended up being too small for the tree I picked out. We found a bigger one in the same style, but then the tree got knocked over and the weight of it warped the legs of the stand. Finally, we found this one at a yard sale, and it is built for our kind of trees.

We cut off just enough branches to get the tree in the stand. And then we cut the red twine and unleashed our tree, seeing it in its glory for the first time. That is the problem with rolling up and picking up a tree that has been marked for you, there's no telling how it will look without opening it up and then you wouldn't be able to get it into your hatchback. But not to worry, this tree was beautiful. It was also massive. I realized after it was up that we probably could've trimmed down a few more of the bottom branches to reduce the width and create more room for presents underneath. As it was, the tree is five feet wide at the base, and looks pretty much like it's just growing out of the floor. We sorta like it that way.

Our overlarge trees always end up being a little sparsely decorated, just because we never have enough lights and ornaments for our Rockefeller tastes. I spent six episodes of Doctor Who stringing up popcorn garlands, but it still wasn't enough. Maybe another night of work will do it.

I say this every year, but I swear, this is the biggest tree we've ever had. And the prettiest. I would like to commend whoever orders the trees for the excellent specimen, despite the fact that I ordered a 7-8 ft tree and this one is upward of 8 ft. I've decided not to lodge a complaint.

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