Oh Christmas tree...

The other day, I was sitting in the kitchen when I got a text from R., who was in his bedroom.  "Come upstairs."

I text, "In 5 minutes."

The phone rings.  "Hello, Handset 1, this is Handset 2.  Could you come upstairs?"

I go to his bedroom.  "Wow, Handset 1, it's nice to finally meet you," he began, and then asked if we could get a Christmas tree.  Sure, I replied.  I have a rule that if I have to push the Christmas tree boulder up the hill, as in thinking of it, going out to get it, paying for it, decorating it by myself, it's not going to happen, but if a young person wants to get involved, sure, lets do it.

"Where do you want to go to get one?"

I want to go in the woods and cut one.  A Christmas tree makes the house smell so nice.  That's what I want it for."

"You mean the woods right outside?"


"Um, that's not exactly legal."

"Mom, my father and his father before him did it that way.  His father was in the war, tho.  But I'm going to do it that way too."

This forest was clearcut 20 years ago, and replanted with seedlings at that time, so everything is the same age and about 60 feet tall.  I'm pretty sure we won't find anything, so I don't feel so bad.  "Really, you think we could find something out there?"

"Yup.  Let's go."

Should I bring a hand saw, or the cordless sawzall?

"Mom, an axe.  That's how its' done."

"No, R., people get a Christmas tree with a saw."

"Have you not heard of Paul Bunyan?  He totally used an axe."

He dons  his bright orange shorts, bright red hoodie, and leather fingerless gloves, grabs the axe, and starts down the trail.  I follow him.  After about a hundred yards, he starts to notice that there are no Christmas-tree sized trees.

"Mom, did you do one of those kid things?"


"You know, like when a little kid says, 'Let's go catch sharks in the lake!' and you kind of go along, like 'OK, honey, we'll give it a try', even though you know for sure there aren't sharks?"

"Yeah, kind of."

So we walk for a little bit, and see a bunch of holly trees.  Holly is pretty invasive, so I suggest we cut one.  It seems pretty Christmas-y, and also really low impact.  R. agrees.  The trees are about 20 feet tall, but we pick one with berries, and R. starts hacking away at it with his axe.  It takes a while, and I'm itching to use my cordless sawzall, but I restrain myself.  He's axeing away like Paul Bunyan.

Eventually, it's falls down, and we drag it through the woods back to our house.  We have to cut most of it off so it can fit in the door, but it looks festive.  Some of the red berries didn't get knocked off during the long drag through the woods still clumped on the branches.

We put it in the tree stand and bring it inside, and put a few lights and decorations on it.  "Um, does it smell like cat pee in here?" 

Let me remind you all, I have no cats.  I have no idea why this holly tree smells so strongly of cat pee. but there you have it. 


  1. Oh, I understand completely! This is all about filling holes in our expectations. We all have some of those sad spaces, empty pockets in our souls. When nothing seems to fill those voids, we turn back to memories that are somehow clear and sharp-edged, warm with sunshine and contentment. We long for the axe-hewn Christmas tree, the odour of the fresh sap sticking to our hands. A saw would never do! As festive as the red berries on the holly might be, the smell of cat pee will never take the place of the well-remembered aroma of balsam. Ah, nostalgia used to be so wonderful.

  2. I'm thinking the owner of the legendary cat-pee-infused leather pants may have been skulking in the woods back of your place before you and R. went on your holly-hunting expedition, but that's just a theory.

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  4. Just one question - When Handset-2 beckons why does Handset-1, the more senior Handset, not require Handset-2 to come downstairs?

  5. I think I like it. Hope you had a merry.

  6. PC, I believe you may be on to something. The aroma has faded over time. And Mike, yes, exactly. E., I know! I should totally be alpha-handset. Laur, you too! Fa la la.

  7. At least with the holly you won't still be picking dried pine needles out of the carpet six months from now. Next time, perhaps you could get R. one of those pine-scented tree-shaped air fresheners? You could glue some sequins on it or make some tiny felt decorations. Hope it was a happy occasion.



  8. I love your holly tree. In fact, I'm pretty jealous that you have holly, as I only have it in my memory and a pale fascimile of a lawn shrub that can survive Chicago winters. I'm not sure about the cat pee smell, though. I don't rememver holly having a smell, just a strong visual.
    Here's how I handle the need to smell pine at christmas, because those fake pine scent candles are all wrong: I fill a vase with branches of everything piney in my yard and woods. I think I have three kinds of pines, and I just cut as many as my hand will hold, plus a few of those red twig dogwood scrubby weed things and a couple of the fake holly shrub things. I stick them in a vase with a bow and set it on the kitchen counter and behold, the magic of genuine pine scent at the holidays.
    I am happy to know mine is not the only family that communicates through phone handsets. And texts. The stairs can be so much work.
    Anyway, I'm with you on the tree. If someone wants to help, I'll dig out the boxes of fake tree and put it up. If no one else can be bothered, then me neither. So far, we haven't missed a Christmas yet, but I'm still curious. One year I left it up until February because no one would help me take it down. (Reason numero uno why live trees are no longer an option - I have stabbed my foot with ancient pine needles for the last time ever.)
    Your lighted holly made me smile. Heck, all your posts make me smile. I am in awe of your ascerbic wit and keen observational skills. Happy holidays and all that. I wonder if your tree is still up too. I'm thinking mine will be down by valentines day, for sure.

  9. Thanks Mel! My tree is down. I started just clipping bits off of it with pruning shears and tossing them into the fire the day after Christmas. Yesterday I got out the sawzall and finished the job. It went directly from tree stand to woodstove. Good idea on the pine vases. Thanks for reading my blog!


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