Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Everyone knows it's best to look for Christmas decorations while standing on a stepladder balanced on the Mt. Rushmore of dirty laundry. One leg of the ladder burrows deeper into a high-art rendition of George Washington's face--done entirely in socks and underwear--while l'artiste herself declines the suggestion, made by a very loud voice in her head, to remove the suitcase from the shelf. Obviously, it's much more fun and adventurous to try to locate the zipper on the suitcase while balancing, 6-month-tummy and all, on the lopsided stepladder, two black and white dogs staring up in rapt admiration at such a display of holiday spirit.

The suitcase is filled with baby clothes, toddler clothes, infant clothes, and, inexplicably, children's clothes. They all fall to the floor of the garage, mingling happily with their soiled relatives making up the Lower Plains section of the Mt. Rushmore exhibit. A few tiny socks nestle into the embrace of a stained long-sleeve t-shirt nobody wears anymore but which mysteriously ends up in the "laundry basket"/Mt. Rushmore exhibit on a regular basis. Before the miniature pastel-colored socks are tarnished by seedy influences, they are saved. By a dog. With remarkably bad breath.

The socks are a little damp and strange-smelling, but they are saved, just like a certain species was saved by a certain hippy carpenter. Just like I saved approximately $20 by purchasing a Christmas tree from Target. Just like I saved the tree from falling out of the open trunk of the car by tying a piece of dental floss around it and through random holes in the car's body--holes that might have been designed for the pouring of brake fluid but might also have been designed for the pouring of egg nog.

Luckily, my prayers/swears were heard, and we did NOT cause a Christmas-tree-induced snafu on the busy freeway. Despite a disturbing creaking sound made by the trunk lid, our tree did not fly out and under the wheels of the car behind us. Everyone made it home safely.

The tree was immediately cut loose from the plastic netting Target's people used to snare it in the deep dark bowels of the Ventura Authentic Pine Xmas Trees forest, and once it was able to stretch out its limbs and yawn, to loosen up and adopt its natural shape, it became full and beautiful and gave off a scent that was in marked contrast to The Dog With The Breath. I managed to get it onto its base with a minimal amount of seasonal slurs, and as we strung the white lights and silver garlands around it I had the feeling I always have about a new, fresh, not-half-dead-and-potentially-a-housefire-risk Christmas tree: I wanted to keep it forever, like a houseplant or a pet. Sula apparently had the same thing on her mind:

"Maman, what happened to our other Christmas tree? Remember, the one at the old house?"

"We...put it in the trash."

"In the TRASH?! No, Maman! A tree can't go in the trash!"

"Yes, it can--a special trash. You put the tree on the sidewalk and special trash people come and take it away and put it in a big, big trash place called the dump. Remember how our old tree stayed on the sidewalk for a really, really long time? Until the neighbors started looking at it funny because the pine needles had turned completely brown and it was mostly just a trunk and some spindly broken branches?"


"That's what happens when you miss the trash people and then ignore the dead tree for a few months."

"Oh. But what's going to happen with this tree, Maman? Are we going to keep it for a long long very time?"

"Yes, baby. We are. Until we're sick to death of looking at it and it's time to hunt for Easter eggs."

The new, fresh, lovely-smelling tree sits in its little corner like a happy troll, dressed in twinkling lights and a few tacky Target decorations. For now, it's home.

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