Peering out the bay window, I am relieved to see the street empty. I grab my gardening gloves and venture outside. While pulling weeds, I covertly survey the neighborhood for lurking busybodies. Seeing no one, I climb into our old pick-up and drive away. I am safe…for now.
Three hours later I’m heading back down Hope Lane with my spoils—the perfect Christmas tree.
Driving slowly toward our house at the end of the cul-de-sac, I stop short. Apparently, the neighborhood has congregated at the Coleman’s house. Glancing out the passenger window, I spy lawn chairs and…a smoking barbeque?! Oh please.
As I pull into the driveway, the neighbors begin settling themselves into the chairs, all facing our house. Seeing my husband’s Honda in the garage I realize that, yes indeed, the show is about to begin.
I hop out of the truck, lower the tailgate, and remove the red cautionary flag from the tree before Donnie emerges from the house.
“Hey, Bob. Throw me another beer. Don’s coming outside…this oughta be good.”
“Yep. Looks like Missy did it again. This is probably the biggest one yet.”
The neighbors don’t even attempt to disguise their amusement. Rumor has it they have dubbed today “Christmas Tree Day”—not because any of them get their tree on this day, but because they know I always get our tree the Friday after Thanksgiving, which inevitably leads to the annual Christmas tree fight.
This year, however, things will be different. This year Donnie and I prayed about “Christmas Tree Day.” Donnie prayed for harmony between us, and I prayed that he would be understanding when I arrived home with a tree three feet taller than our ceiling.
Donnie obviously doesn’t appreciate the art of procuring the perfect Christmas tree. I cannot be held responsible if the tree with the impeccable shape happens to be too tall to fit inside our house. I, after all, take on the tiresome task of traipsing through every Christmas tree lot within twenty miles to find the flawless tree. The only job Donnie has is to cut a few feet off the bottom of the tree…while ensuring that the perfect shape stays intact. Seems simple to me.
I wait nervously while Donnie hollers neighborly greetings. “Hey, Tommy…guys. Those dogs sure smell good. I’ll be over as soon as I get my lovely bride’s tree inside.”
Eight mouths drop in disbelief. Well, nine, counting mine. “Who are you, and what have you done with my husband?”
Donnie whispers, “We’re Christians now, remember? We have to show our neighbors how we’ve changed.”
With his back to the crowd, Donnie eyes the tree sticking out the back of the truck…and glares. He plasters on a smile, waves to the audience next door, and heads to the garage.
Moments later, Donnie’s standing at the garage entrance…chainsaw in hand, tape measure on the belt. Like two cowboys facing off in a noontime showdown, I’m positioned at the back of the truck staring down the long drive at Donnie.
He approaches the tree…smile still in place. “How tall is this one?” he queries through clenched teeth.
“Twelve…maybe a smidge more.”
“Twelve feet?!” Donnie starts to lose his poise. “Do you realize I’ll be chopping off almost half this tree?!”
“Honey, remember the neighbors. And our witness.” I wave at Linda and Caroline, who are passing out brownies and hot chocolate.
Donnie measures the tree, starts the chainsaw, stops the chainsaw, glares at me, measures again, restarts the chainsaw, glares at me again, and commences cutting off branches.
After thirty minutes of ceaseless sawing, Donnie mounts the tree in the stand and lugs it inside. Moments later the tree reappears, with Donnie stumbling behind.
“It doesn’t fit—the bottom branches have to go.” Donnie continues communicating through clenched teeth, though the smile vanished sometime during pruning.
“No! It’ll ruin the shape.” Arms flailing, I attempt to demonstrate why the lower branches provide the entire balance to the tree.
“Fine—I’ll decapitate it instead.” Donnie snatches the electric saw—I pull the plug and start running with the cord. Still clutching the chainsaw, Donnie chases after me.
Racing by gawking neighbors, we simultaneously stop at their stunned expressions. Donnie lowers the chainsaw and restores his counterfeit smile. I copy his countenance. Together, we slink back to our Christmas tree.
“Guess we have some work to do on this Christian example stuff, huh?” I shrug, and silently watch Donnie trim off two more feet.
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