I hear that IKEA sells Christmas trees for twenty dollars.
I bet you could walk in and out of that tree lot in under ten minutes- tree in hand, wallet still bulging.
But choosing a real Christmas tree is so much more than that. Like a crisp walk on a Friday night when everyone else in the house is distracted by their own amusements. First a detour into the local gas station- big sale on mandarine oranges and time to pick up a little something for my favorite tree vendor. The people at the till know her brand, if I don't.
And then, what's this I see? A barricade on main street? A tree lighting ceremony? There are glowing fires, and my son Sam's classmates are lifting their voices to the skies and the newly lighted pines, singing Christmas carols to the glow of ice candles. Clearly, my Sam has chosen "safety first" and refused to bare his soul to the townspeople in the middle of a highway in winter. He's snug as a bug at home on his comfy couch, controller in hand, clever boy.
Thank goodness there are good parents out there- the show-offy ones who read the town newsletters, school agendas, and flashing electronic sign on the front of the elementary school. Must be nice to be so flawless and have so much time. I'm grateful to them- their children provide a picturesque backdrop to my solitary Christmas tradition. So, with the tune of "Christmas Without You" ringing in my ears, I slip past the masses and into the tree lot, gift in hand. A waft of pine scent bathes me in hope and good will, and my senses are soon delighting in rows upon rows of spruce and pine. Long, slim, shiny ones, ittsy bitsy prickly ones, fat ones, pine-coney ones. The lot is filled with people who don't have all the time in the world like I do. I let them all go ahead of me, so content am I to sniff and finger every prickly pine in sight.
In less than a nano second, my brain is caught in the classic Christmas struggle: a big fluffy, upper class looking tree, or an affordable, perfectly Charlie Brown, space efficient teensey pine. Then I remembered that I'd thought to resolve the issue before leaving my house a few minutes earlier: This year? Selflessness. One single tree, properly spaced, fully intact, complete with needles that wouldn't fall off in the first 24. No little tree for me, that's just indulgent.
But Mona knows me. She knows my weakness for the stick tree, and starts in on me immediately with her shiny eyed, wide grinned wiley ways- "I know what YOU want!", even as I stand before the boring perfect trees, thinking of pleasing my family members at home. Now would the folks at Ikea know my preferences in holiday decor? I think not. Nor would they take the time for a long leisurely chat beside the tree jiggler near the back of the lot. The good folks of Ikea wouldn't likely take the time to share bits of their story with me. Their hopes and intentions, a little of their pain, the reason for their joy. I probably couldn't gift them with some holiday smokes and enjoy the scent of it mingling with the pines. (my big brother was a smoker. The faint smell of cigarettes always makes me feel cozy and safe; like I'm on the brink of an adventure.) I likely wouldn't linger until my boots got soggy and the elementary carollers had gone back home, and the street fires extinguished.
By the time I exit the lot, the street has become a highway again, and the ice candles have been put away. Mona is about to close her shop until the morning, when I promise to return with the means to bring my great big tree home. Of course, she's sold me a spidery one as well- insisting that its really only worth five dollars.
When I get in, my family asks me- Did you have to go to Altona for that tree?! Did you grow it yourself before you chopped it down? Where on earth were you all this time?
They still don't get it, after all these years, poor impoverished home bound souls.
I'm happy when I wake up on Saturday morning, knowing I can head back down main street- stopping to pick up my trees, then maybe a few minutes to check for treasure at the thrift shop. Mona has my tree all shaken down and bottom trimmed, and gives me some advice at making it last longer than four minutes. Being an Amazon woman, she offers to carry the big tree to the van while I scoop up the itty bitty one. It's not far to home- just three blocks, so no need for fancy blankets or ratchet ties. Just a slow drive down the street with the hatch a little ways open.
If I'd bought my trees at Ikea, I'd have to have some fancy ways to tie those suckers down.
And if I'd bought my trees at Ikea, I know for sure that four days later when I'm strolling down main street with my team of tinies, there wouldn't be a tree seller carreening to a stop beside me, dashing out of her car, and rushing over to say;
"You took the wrong tree! Did you notice that your little tree wasn't at all the one you'd chosen? That when you got it home it didn't have all those gnoby little pinecones that you loved so much?
You took the tree top that I cut branches off of to use in Christmas arrangements - did you notice the huge gaps in it?"
It just wouldn't be the same
If I bought my Christmas tree from Ikea.