Thirteen years ago yesterday, on December 7, 2001, Mr. Lamarr got down on one knee in a charming Italian restaurant in Baltimore’s Little Italy and asked me to be his bride, and placed a gorgeous heirloom ring (on the ring finger of the wrong hand, but…details). I was, of course, helpless to say anything but ‘yes’ – after all, he was asking me on Pearl Harbor Day, that well known most romantic of days, and Joey Ramone was dead, so that was no longer an option…
(I kid, of course. The proposal was lovely, and Mr. Lamarr is the most wonderful partner in crime a punk rock pinup could ask for).
We will have been married for eleven years in January. Despite having maintained a home for over a decade, we are still shockingly bad at most things domestic. So that’s probably why it took us seven hours and multiple trips to various home improvement stores to purchase, install, and decorate a Christmas tree yesterday.
See, originally this was all supposed to happen on Saturday. However, Saturday turned out to be a rain sodden hellscape, so we instead opted to spend the day in the District* before running amok in the Bethesda Trader Joe’s (Cookie Butter! Triple Ginger Cookies! Mac and Cheese! How are these enchiladas? I dunno – they’re $1.99! Let’s find out!). Thus, Sunday was to be the day. In addition the heartwarming memory-making opportunity putting up the Christmas tree would provide, we also hoped that the tangy smell of a live tree would help combat the smell of:
1. The “Tuna for Cats” pet food we purchased during our Trader Joe’s rampage. Despite having adorable packaging, being cheap, and having the rare quality of being something our fur brats will deign to eat while still being really good for them, Tuna for Cats smells like Tuna That Is Here Solely To Make You No Longer Want to Eat Anything Ever Again.
2. The large jar of garlic I accidentally dropped and broke while trying to get to the blueberries I needed to make waffles for breakfast. Garlic is really pungent, you guys. On the plus side, my sinuses have never, ever been this clear.
3. The apple cinnamon pie scented Glade plugin, which we cranked up in the hopes that it would mask the Tuna for Cats/garlic aroma wafting from the kitchen. However, we only succeeded in making the entire house smell like an apple/Tuna for Cats pie with a lovely garlic sauce.
You know who else decided Sunday was Christmas fun day? Everyone else in the DC suburbs. The line of cars to get into our local Christmas tree farm was intense. And I use the term “cars” loosely. Most of the other vehicles were behemoths with grandiose model names like “Armada” or “Subdivision” and sported stick figure families on the back window. We do not drive a stick figure festooned hulk with a stupid name. We drive a small Japanese car that gets excellent gas mileage. (It does, however, have a stupid name). It is a car that once caused the (albeit somewhat tipsy at the time) parent of a good friend of ours to query, “Why are they driving a cigarette vending machine?”
This made the brief off roading portions of getting to the Christmas tree farm quite interesting.
When we got out of the car, I started taking a good look at the other tree hunters. Jeans carefully tucked into Hunter boots. Pristine “performance” outerwear. Saws. People boarding hay wagons. People with their faces frozen in a rictus of “happiness” dragging monstrous Redwoods back from wherever the hay wagons had abandoned them.
I started taking a good look at what we were wearing. Chuck Taylors. Motorcycle jackets. Distinct lack of cutting implements, unless you counted to mini Swiss Army knife on Mr. Lamarr’s keychain, which struck me as perhaps inadequate at cutting down even a small tree. We left, mainly because we couldn’t tell who, in the sea of Hunter boots, North Face fleeces, and Coach clutches, we were supposed to ask to direct us to the precut section.
Two tree lots later and we finally had the five foot Douglas fir of our dreams. Two trips to two different retailers later and we had a tree stand that fit the five foot Douglas fir. (Sad fact: It is impossible to make less than two trips to a home improvement store. Once, during a lengthy dishwasher repair, Mr. Lamarr made no fewer than five trips to our local Lowe’s. On the fifth, made just before closing time, a morose store attendant observed, “You look like a man who has made a huge mistake”). One discovery that half of our Christmas decorations were still in storage at my parents’ house, and another trip to a home improvement store to replace them later and we were ready to start.
Except it turns out our five foot tree really needed to be more like a four and a half foot tree in order to fit on the antique sewing machine we wisely use as a tree table and still clear the ceiling. Commence sawing.
You may be wondering why we chose to saw off part of the tree instead of just staging it on the ground. That would be because of these furry assholes, who would view an accessible piece of forestry in their midst as a veritable cat playground with lots of shiny things for them to murder and then vomit up later.
Finally! We were ready for the fun part! I cranked up the star of last Friday’s Record Store Day haul – the Joey Ramone Christmas 10 inch – and we got to work while Joey and Ronnie Spector sang “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” All Christmas trees should be decorated while Joey Ramone and Ronnie Spector sing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”
I think it turned out pretty good, and I don’t say that lightly. I grew up in a house in which Christmas trees were taken very, very seriously. I went on many a fun family outing/forced march through Christmas tree farms while my dad judged about 1200 nearly identical trees on fullness and likelihood to drop needles. This would be followed by his traditional Christmas rant about how much better Christmas trees in South Central Pennsylvania would be if you could get them flocked, which is a popular treatment you can have done to your fresh cut tree in the Pittsburgh/Wheeling area that involves having the tree coated with a kind of artificial snow. In fact, my dad feels so strongly about this that he plans to open his own tree flocking business when he retires. He intends to call it “Flock U Christmas Trees.” My dad is basically a George Carlin Christmas Special.
I think the weak point of our tree is probably the topper. It’s a pretty, perfectly serviceable tree topper, but I grew up with what was truly the most epic of all tree toppers – a Bradford Celestial Star my parents bought before I was born, and which is still the focal point of the family tree. It ain’t Christmas, we always say, without the “Disco Star.” A few years ago my parents gave us a replica, but it’s just not quite the same. And, unfortunately, the replica is also with the half of our decorations we forgot to get out of my parents’ attic.
We realized shortly after finishing that, due to our proclivities for blue and silver decorations, we inadvertently created the world’s greatest Hanukkah bush. Which is fine – chag Hanukkah sameach, Jewish friends! The truth is, though, that we really like peacocks. Unfortunately most of our peacocks are currently at my parents’ house, partying with the replica Disco Star. Except for this guy, who was the last one left at Target.
*Howdy, readers from outside of the DC, Maryland, Virginia (or DMV) area! “The District” is how those of us living in the outer reaches of the Metro area refer to Washington, DC. Or, at least, how I refer to it. And how everyone else should.