Christmas is hard to forget very quickly. Especially when I am able to see my tree in the back yard. It stands fairly nicely leaning against a vine covered tree back there. A few feet over from it stands the previous year's tree. It doesn't look so good anymore. After a year of summer heat and general neglect, it has lost all its needles, and is starting to grump.
Before Christmas I had an economic thought. The old tree, once covered in lights and a few ornaments would look almost as good as a new tree. I thought about it and realized that was not true. It would look pretty sad and depressing. It would go good with a picture of Nan and I standing around it with all of our clothes rotting off of our bodies, shivering because the roof got burnt off of the top of our apartment during an unhappy episode with the microwave.
On the other hand, I figured, a picture like that might increase the amount of money our ways by generous donors. Too poor and sad to have a tree. One string of lights laid over it, with most of the bulbs burnt out. If we had gotten it as a cover picture for some magazine, we might have gotten lots of money.
We didn't do it though, because Nan's brother Paul donated a used Christmas tree to us. I found it laying out behind the townhouses, and it looked pretty good. It took me a few days to find it because I was looking behind the wrong townhouses. But we did find it.
Nan and I hauled it back to the apartment with pride. I mentioned that trees left alone for a few days without water get their sap stuck at the bottom and they die. So we got a saw and tried to cut the tree smaller, which didn't work because we got tired. The tree got chucked into the house and rammed into its little tree stand and put up. It was beautifully decorated, and surrounded by presents. It looked pretty nice.
Since I figured the tree was in jeopardy of falling to pieces, I made special care to water it pretty frequently with several large glasses of water. The holes in the side of the tree that we had made with the saw were bound to absorb some water.
The morning Nan and I left to go visit friends for about four days, I dumped an especially generous amount of water into the tree. The tree smiled at me, and I knew it was going to be okay.
When we got back, however, the apartment smelt terrible. From the looks of it, grandmas fruitcake had not done so well in the trash, so we took the trash outside, and left it there, since we weren't the sorts to bring the trash back in.
The smell seemed better and we carried about our lives, carefully refilling the tree as often as possible. The needles on the bottom of the tree were starting to fall off, so I tried doubling the water ration to try to drag the tree out just three more days, so it could get through Christmas, and be up for another day or so.
Christmas-eve-eve day I announced the annual present shaking event. Nan and I would enjoy our selves at a fun guessing game of "what's in this package." On Christmas Eve we'd open one present, and finally on Christmas day morning we'd open the rest.
That was all fun, until we got to the presents at the bottom of the pile. They were kind of wet. Actually, rather soaked through. I looked under the tree and noticed the problem.
The stand was at a rather steep slant. So no matter how much I tried to fill the stand with water, from the view in the back that I was filling from, it always appeared to have room for more. Upon further inspection we detected a foul smell coming up from the carpet beneath the tree. We hoped the tree would not fall through the floor into the dentists office below.
Then I noticed one of the presents I had given Nan. It was a bunch of Recess pieces cups that I had put into old (clean) socks and wrapped in paper to make them hard to tell what they were. It felt heavy. The smell coming from the package smelt like the socks had not been so clean.
"Nan," I said, "You better open this one now."
"Okay," she said. And opened it. I expected the vile smell and foulness of it all would make one of us throw up. But miracles never cease, I had wrapped the socks in a plastic bag. The socks had not even gotten wet at all. Although they still smelt kind of weird. The candies were okay, even though they took a day to air out.
About three or four boxes of baking soda later and a lot of scrubbing and vacuuming and related cleaning activities the floor looked more or less recovered.
On Christmas day I opened my presents. The game "Operation" that Nan had gotten me had been very wet, but by Christmas it had dried again. So it looked like one of the original copies from the sixties.
After all was said and done, and our feet were starting to be full of holes from standing on needles that fell from the tree, we took it down and chucked in the back yard.
And to this day, it stands there. Slanted ever so much to the left.