Monday, December 27, 2004

A Tree Story

I wanted a real tree, Amanda wanted a fake tree. So I said, "then I want a pink aluminum tree". To which she replied "No! I want a real-looking fake tree".

I was told that relationships, specially marriages, are all about compromises. Yet it really seemed unreasonable for me not to have a real Christmas tree in our new house, on our first Christmas together as man and wife. After all, growing up in Peru, I had watched many American Christmas movies were entire plots were about picking the "right tree". Even Charlie Brown got a real one!

Never mind the occasional critters hiding in real trees, or the sap or the smell or the occasional house burned down by a dry Christmas tree victimized by malfunctioning lights. I wanted a real tree! Here is where I need to tell you to ignore my failed pink aluminum tree attempt to use reverse psychology.

The debate went on for days. It seemed hopeless. I told Amanda that, at this moment, after buying the house, we had very important things to buy, like furniture, to be worrying about Christmas trees. If we really wanted a tree, I offered as a solution, a "real tree" was usually cheaper than a quality fake one. Very reasonable argument, but, Amanda countered by pointing out all the mishaps that the Griswolds endured with their Christmas tree in that famous "Christmas Vacation" movie she had very cleverly arranged for us to watch. Not good.

Enter the Gadget-freak

A couple of weeks before Christmas, while Amanda slaved away with Christmas-season chores at her retail job, I got Dad and Mom Christopher, my parents in law, to help me spend the day U-Haulin' Amanda's stuff from her old room to the new house and haulin' it up the stairs to our spare and master bedrooms. At the end of the day we were very tired. Before they drove back home, since Amanda was not going to be home for still a couple more hours, I convinced them to have dinner with me at Longhorns. Dad Christopher and I agree that there is nothing better than a piece of cow after a day full of work.

During that dinner, in another display of my split second decision making abilities, I casually announced I was going to give-in to my wife's request for a "fake but real-looking tree" and that I was going to stop by Wal-Mart to get one right after dinner. I suppose my subconscious had been working on the "tree problem" all day long and the exhaustion of my conscious self had finally given up to the demands of my inner self. Makes sense?

Mom Christopher's face lighted up and ignoring Dad's tired face dragged him along to Wal-Mart to see what kind I was going to get. In "Wally-world", we browsed the meager selection of trees still available, considered the different tree sizes, tree types and even got to deal with an overzealous shopper who thought we were going to "steal" the tree he had already decided to buy. All of this while the real-vs-fake debate was still not quite finished in my head.

Then it happened. There it was, two selves up, middle of the isle display, in all its made-in-China plastic splendor. A perfect compromise tree: pre-decorated, pre-lighted. Not to bad for a fake tree. This would be a very nice surprise for Amanda, I could even have it up and ready by the time she got home. Mom Christopher liked it pretty much. Or perhaps she liked even better the fact I was doing all this just for Amanda. Christmas tree magic? Even from a made-in-china box? You bet!

Off we went back to the house. I boldfaced the "we" because Mom Christopher once again exerted her wife influence to get exhausted father in law to drive her back to the house to get to "see the tree".

Opening the box took us about 10 minutes. Out came this heavy mass of green stuff. After a little debate to pick the right spot for the tree, we moved the compressed tree to its selected spot and plugged it to the wall. I am not particularly fond of reading manuals and, of course, I didn't this time. We saw the lights come on but a two foot pile-of-green stuff didn't look very promising. I grabbed the top of the tree and pulled it up, but it just came crashing down. We scratched our heads and after some frustrating figuring it out without the manual, we found this little button. Pushing it produced this loud mechanical whirl as the tree pull itself up to a full 7 1/2 feet tall and our jaws dropped. Now I really, really, really liked this tree.

Mom and Dad finally got to go home not before mom made me promise to tell her how surprised Amanda was. I lighted up the tree and went upstairs. Amanda came back from work and I heard her open the door and yell... "Dam Hak, you got a tree!!!". Of course she loved it.

In the end what matters is not the kind of tree or even getting a tree. It is the opportunity to get to share, to experience something special to mark the passing of time. Little things that serve as milestones reminding us what is really important. In this case the tree is the reminder of our first Christmas together as a married couple. What is important is that we are together this Christmas.

Now for next Christmas maybe we can get another made-in-China mechanized Yule-time contraption that not only comes pre-decorated, pre-lighted and pulls itself up but that also rotates and blows artificial snow. I am already researching it on the net.

(my gadget-freak alter ego is grinning intended...)