Fuck this tree. This fucking tree. I promise I don’t normally start stories in medias res, but I can’t help it. This tree is a giant, nine-foot, demonic, home-wrecking, total piece of fucking shit.
I say this as I stand next to my family’s royal failure of a tenenbaum, something which even Linus from Charlie Brown would be ashamed to be associated with. This tree has taken so much time from me, enacted so much emotional stress on my family, that I can’t help it if I no longer see it as an inanimate fucking object. It’s got a life of its own. It’s a damn demon tree. I’ve stood next to it, supporting it, for the last 90 minutes, trying to keep it from falling over again. I only momentarily take my hands off of it to help unwind the garland and remove the ornaments, and I swear it knows that I’m starting to trust that it won’t fall over, so it decides to make a move to take out the window behind me.
Like most disasters one lives through, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the tree first fell, a little over two hours ago. Except that, like most disasters one lives through, the trauma of the event likely prevented my memory from working correctly. I think I was playing video games in my room at home, waiting for my buddy to call me back about going out for a beer. But for all I really know, I was furiously masturbating to a Celine Dion song in the furnace closet down the hall when my mom shouted up to me.
“Get down here! The tree fell!”
That’s only what I think the conversation sounded like. I have no way of really remembering, and neither does my mother. Our memory of this stupid episode of our family’s collective life, and my recouting of it to you, is probably wildly inaccurate. That’s just how trauma can mess with your head.
When the piece of shit tree betrayed us all by tipping over in our family room, knocking out a lamp and tipping off the mass suicide of several of our most precious Christmas ornaments, my brother, who had bought the tree, took it especially hard. The whole thing wasn’t on him; whom else could you blame but Gravity (stupid sexy Sandra Bullock) and maybe God, if you’re especially angry?
Of course, given all the commotion and shouting and glass-adorned trees tipping over, our dog takes my brother’s anger as a signal that he’s at fault for something, so he’s terribly upset, and my sister, home from college and dogsick, is terribly upset that he’s terribly upset, and my father is terribly upset that his reading lamp is busted and that the tree is ruined and that he had to ditch his get-together with his high school buddies to come see why our fucking piece of shit tree committed seppuku, and my mother is terribly upset that my father is upset because he’s a bit unpleasant to be around when he’s terribly upset, and I’m standing next to the tree with my hands covered in sap and pine needles, more nonplussed than terribly upset.
I don’t intend to make this story about something larger than life. Really, all I want to tell you is that our stupid Christmas tree fell over, a few hours after putting it up and decorating it, and it was pretty inconvenient. But Christmas Tree Collapse Syndrome probably happens a million times a year in America, and aside from a few broken ornaments and a scratched wooden armrest and a lamp bent at the joint, there’s no real harm done to us. Personally, I’d given up on the tree once I realized that it was too drunk on sap and Baby’s First Christmas ornaments to stand on its own anymore.
You might think, because of my disdain for our piece of shit fucking tree, that I don’t care much for the holidays. It’s not that I don’t like Christmas; I love Christmas. And I love decorating for Christmas, too. When it comes to taking the decorations down on January 2nd, well, that’s clearly depressing as shit, and I would understand if a Christmas tree chose that point to go out with as big a bang as possible, but putting all the accouterments up is actually kind of nice. Sure, it means waking up earlier than I’d like, and carrying boxes, and a bunch of other menial labor that I don’t care much for. But there’s also the fact that, for a few hours of one day of the year, my family works towards a common goal and actually enjoys it.
It’s pretty cruel that the product of five hours of labor—well, 4 hours of actual decorating, 1 hour of which dealt with the main tree, and another hour of which consisted of two separate trips to Walgreens to buy extra lights and a bag of Doritos because it’s my right to buy Doritos when I run a bullshit errand—has come to what it has. And I know, as Christmas approaches, my family has a lot going for it. We have each other, and a house, and enough money to buy a tree, and Christmas ornaments that we’re proud enough of to be sad when they break, and a whole bunch of other shit. But damned if I’m not a little frosty that this fucking tree distracted us enough to forget all that for a moment.