"We're heading out to get our Christmas tree this weekend. We go to the same place every year, an operation run by a woman who is so old, I'm always amazed she's still there every December. Maybe she won't be around this year, but I'd bet my crèche she will be standing right there in her urban "forest," ordering her men around when a tree needs to be taken down, carried off and tied to the roof of a car.
She runs her business from a money belt strapped around her waist. The price of her trees is completely arbitrary. It has nothing to do with height or width or bountiful bushiness. I have always suspected she sizes up the customer and charges accordingly. For years, we've dressed down to visit her.
And while her prices are often as high as the treetops, I have to admit her trees are perfect, something that used to impress me but which I now find rather depressing. They have all been pruned to perfection. Not a Charlie Brown tree on the lot. It's a trend in America today to have everything perfect. Teeth. Trophy wives. Even tiny tots dressed in designer duds. Rapper and hip-hop mogul Kanye West's mother just died after seeking perfection through plastic surgery. Novelist Olivia Goldsmith died a few years ago. A high price to pay.
And just the other day I heard about a camera that won't click the photo until the subject is smiling. Evidently all photos from now on will only show perfectly happy people. What fun is that? In that case, there would be no family photos from my childhood, since my brother went through what seemed like a decade of being sullen. He'd offer up a smirk every now and then but never a smile.
And now it seems every Christmas tree must be perfect. Smiling Scotch pines. Most of the Christmas trees we had while I was growing up were far from perfect. Some were downright ugly. But as they've always said about women with unconventional looks, every last one of them had a good personality. Some were like Ethel Merman. Bawdy. Bigger than life. We cut them down on our farm. There was no city lot with a moneychanger barking orders and sizing up customers.
Often it was just me and my dad wandering through a field near the farm pond. The pickings were slim — we grew trees made for apples, not tinsel — but Dad would always reassure me that an ornament would fill that gaping hole in the side, or that overextending bough would be the perfect display area. It always seemed to work, although looking at old photos from Christmases past, I'm always a bit shocked at what passed as our Christmas tree back then.
Good thing that only-if-you're-smiling-perfectly camera wasn't invented back then. Like my brother, those trees with their own distinct personalities also would have been wiped from history. And too bad, too. The imperfect are often the most beautiful things in our lives."
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