A Smallen Christmas Story…It could only happen to us!

December 9, 2010

Family, Home

 It was about 1983 or 1984…we were living in our first home, a lovely old Queen Anne, in the charming little village of Coopersburg.  Kristin was in about 3rd or 4th grade and Lara was about 3.  Mike was a member of Jaycees, and I of Jaycettes (the following year they changed their name to Jaycee Women), and our home was on the annual fund-raising House Tour.  We had some high ceilings, lovely old Victorian furniture, lovely Victorian wallpaper and a huge bay on the side of the house…quintessentially Queen Anne style architecture.  Hundreds of tiny, little fans and babies breath and ribbons were crafted into ornaments for the tree, silk poinsettia and beaded garland had been readied for tree trimming…and I had the perfect tree planned.  Now all we had to do was get the perfect tree.  Huge, lush, tall and fragrant.  I had scouted out the tree I wanted.  It was at Unique Garden Center and the price tag said $37.00.

Now let me tell you.  Kristin was ready for a tree on December 1.  To say by the 10th she was in a frenzy would be a gross understatement.  The kid was bouncing off the walls.  This, of course, worked her younger sister into a frenzy until I wished I could simply erase December and Christmas Trees from her memory banks.  She elicited a commitment from Mike that on Friday evening after work we would go and get a tree. 

Friday came and with it the worst cold snap ever.  The mercury had dipped below 0 and the wind was howling.  Lara had a cold, I had an aversion to the cold as well as a cold and Mike decided that it was far too cold to go outside and deal with Christmas trees.  Wailing and disappointment ensued from both girls and an edict was issued.  We will get a tree tonight, you promised, no disclaimer of weather related postponements was issued with the commitment and I don’t want to hear this any more.  Let’s go.  And so off we went.  Out the door, into the car and southbound on Route 309 with the specific instructions to head to Unique.

We traveled a few miles, not nearly far enough for Unique, when Mike turned his left turn signal on to turn into a tree stand on a lot, vacant but for an old barn, and a profusion of cut Christmas Trees.  Confused, I said “No, No, this isn’t Unique, we need to go down the road near to Quakertown to get to Unique!”   Patiently, the Big Guy explained we didn’t need to go that far, we could just look around here.  I pointed out (in a snit) that the tree I had chosen was at Unique and no other tree would do.  He persisted…and, since he was driving I had no options.   Out of the car we trooped to examine the trees in the bitter cold.  

Immediately I spotted a perfectly acceptable tree.   It was the featured tree.  Strains of O Christmas Tree were running through my head as I “saw” this vision of green in my beautiful living room decked out with the painstakingly crafted decorations.  I announced that an acceptable replacement for the Unique tree had been found and told the man at the stand “We’ll take this one!”.   Mike, of course, asked “How much?”.  To which the man responded $40.  Now.  To suggest that my husband is merely frugal would be to do him a disservice.  Think miserly and you’re getting there.  Unless there are $400 binoculars involved but that’s a different story for a different day.  He said we’d continue to look.  I pouted and chose the next best tree and pronounced we’d get that one.  Mike, of course asked “How much?”  The man said $40 and Mike said “let’s keep looking”. 

My pout became a snit. (pouts are pretty at times.  Snits are becoming somewhat ugly).  Mike picked one out and I gave it the thumbs down.  I would accept either of the two I had chosen OR the Unique tree I had previously chosen.  Kristin’s head swiveled from side to side as she watched the tree discussion deteriorate before her eyes. It was readily apparent to her (and to anybody watching) that each of us was firmly entrenched in our positions and this was going to be something.  The Christmas Tree man, obviously a married man who recognized the signs of entrenchment and impending warfare and loss of a sale, tactfully asked the Big Guy “How much do you want to spend for a tree?” to which the Big Guy responded “$15”. 

Fifteen dollars??!!!  FIFTEEN DOLLARS???  I was dumbfounded and fully in a fury at this point.  Before I could speak the man said “Well, I don’t know that you’ll find much of a tree for $15”.  (Ya THINK?) “If I have any like that”, he said, “It would be laying up there aside of the barn and you’re welcome to check it out”.  I had recovered from my momentary shock and was no longer speechless.  “Thank you, that won’t be necessary”.  To the Big Guy…”We will not be buying any $15 tree , nor any tree found laying on the side of the barn in a heap in the dark.  Those are the offal of trees.  It won’t fit into my vision of the perfect tree and I can tell you without ever looking, no tree found by the side of the barn will be acceptable to me.  None.  Should you buy one it will not enter my house.”  I was beginning to feel a full blown tantrum coming on.  Kristin could see it coming.  The tree man could see it coming.  The Big Guy was oblivious.  I pronounced that we would be leaving now and I would procure a tree on my own the next day….it was far too cold to continue to debate this ridiculous issue.  Let’s get into the car n-0-w and go home.

Kristin was crestfallen.  Mike persisted.  “We’ll just look,” he said.  “You never know what we might find,” he said.  Again, I warned that there was nothing there along the barn or priced at $15 that would be acceptable.  I would wait in the car with Lara and they could look to heart’s content.   Bear in mind, however, that none from the side of the barn would be acceptable.  Off they went into the dark while Lara and I waited in the car…Lara anxious with anticipation and me seething.  Soon enough they appeared at the front of the car with what can only be described as the tree from Uglyville.  And at the bargain price of $7 the Big Guy was sold.  Kristin was ecstatic.  Lara clapped her chubby little baby hands with glee.  I was unamused.  I reminded the Big Guy that it was unacceptable.  He knew how to handle this.  He had Kristin prevail on me to love it and take it.  “It’s great mommy, it’ll be fine mommy, isn’t it pretty mommy?”  “Beautiful” I said which, of course, was the sign the Big Guy wanted and he turned to the Christmas Tree Man and said “We’ll take it!”  I was like “WHAT????”  

Of course the Big Guy was unprepared and had not checked for rope so the Christmas Tree Man offered up some white nylon twine to attach it to our car roof.  I mouthed epithets at him through the window while he made faces at me and Kristin danced around excitedly in the cold.   With the tree mounted on the roof, my little family got in the car to go home. Heated discussion between the Big Guy and his Bride immediately ensued.  I expressed disbelief that against my specific wishes he had purchased this tree anyway and that I had no intention, watsoever, under the sun, in this life or the next, of that tree going into my house and gracing our holiday celebration.  As we turned onto Route 309 north to head for home, my irritation was reaching epic proportion.  Did I mention that I was getting nowhere?  The Big Guy was blithely ignoring me and singing silly Christmas songs with the girls. I informed him that when we got home he should throw it out along the side of our barn until I was ready to deal with it…and silently planned to purchase the Smallen family tree alone the next day…when I  told him “As far as I am concerned, the kindest thing that could happen to that tree would be for it to fly off the roof of our car, be hit by a truck and put out of my misery.” 

The words were no sooner out of my mouth and the world changed.  There was a swirling wind, our visibility diminished as dust swirled in the air.  We felt the car literally struggling to keep the wheels on the road as some force tried to pick it up off the ground.  The Big Guy and I looked at one another in confusion and bewilderment as I began to think maybe it was TRUE and I had a sister who a house fell on as the Big Guy had once accused me and we were being transported to OZ.  Suddenly I heard a wailing from the back seat and realized Lara had been the one wailing as one of them said “OUR TREE…!” and as I turned around to see what in the world was wrong with my children, prepared to take on whatever force to keep them safe, I saw the ugly tree, launched from the roof, propelling itself trunk first toward a car who was traveling north behind us.  Mercifully the driver was able to dodge the missile, however, a tractor trailer behind them hit it full on at about 60.  Almost simultaneously we realized that Fleet Leasing, who had a helipad on the southbound side of the highway, had a helicopter landing who came in very low over the highway, creating an updraft that pulled the tree off the roof and propelled it backwards.  After ascertaining that nobody was hurt behind us or inside our car, I smugly looked over at the Big Guy and quietly said, “Well.  From my lips to God’s ears”.

We pulled over so Mike could pull the tree, or what was left of it, off the highway.  All that remained was the top 2 feet, most of the needles gone.  A few needles and twigs remain.  Kristin, intent on having a tree, any tree, begged to take it home for her bedroom.  The Big Guy convinced me it was a good plan and that they would go out and get a tree the next day.  And sure enough, the next day Mike and Kristin went out for a tree.  To Unique.  Where they bought the tree I wanted in the first place.  And it WAS beautiful!

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4 Comments on “A Smallen Christmas Story…It could only happen to us!”

  1. Dawn Says:

    WOW!!..Great story I loved it.

    Reply

  2. Dee Says:

    i know exaclty where you mean and the places you were and where you got both trees and where the helicopter was… we live in hellertown and go hit 309 and the stores along there as well as the turnpike… great story, i loved it!!!

    Reply

    • rsmallen Says:

      Thanks Dee! It didn’t seem funny at the time, but over the years it has become more and more hilarious as it has been retold. It’s become quite legendary and we almost re-enact it as all of us get in on the storytelling. LOL

      Reply

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