Needle in a Haystack:

In which the author proves that she is, on several fronts, unhinged.

Um. Y’all.  I bought twice as much Christmas tree as I’d intended to.

It started Thursday night.  I was ready to be out of the house after a couple of weeks of forced hibernation.  Willow and Veronica and I had dinner at Capital Club 16, and it was perfect, and there are nutcrackers up in the alcoves above the tables, and there was a perfect Christmas tree in the front window.

Friday I decided I’d go ahead and get my tree at the Farmer’s Market like I always do.  On the way over there I thought, you know what?  I have had a fraser fir tree every year of my whole entire life.  I think I’ll shake it up this year.  I think I’ll get a white pine, like the one at Capital Club 16.  Thus began the slow descent into madness.

They didn’t have any white pines at the Farmer’s Market, not any of the ten or fifteen tree farms that were there.  A Handsome Lumberjack stopped me and asked if he could help.  And, yes indeed, I’m sure he could.  But he didn’t have any white pines.  He said to check back after four.  In the meantime I went to Logan’s, and then two tree lots off Tryon Road.  I went back to the Farmer’s Market after dark.  There were three white pines, but they were all White House Christmas tree sized.  I have eight foot ceilings.  It was not a match.

I collected Julia in Durham for music last night.  She was a good sport, so we stopped at two tree lots on the way to Cat’s Cradle.  No luck.  “Should it be this hard to find a white pine?”  I asked her.  “Aren’t they usually all over the place?”

“I don’t know,” she said.  “I wouldn’t be able to spot one to save my soul.  I only do fraser firs.”  She kind of made a scrunch face.  Until yesterday, I was also on Team Fraser Fir, and would not consider it Christmas with anything less, and would have made a scrunch face if you’d told me I wouldn’t get one.  A fraser fir is solid, and dependable, and traditional, and workmanlike, and doesn’t drop egregiously long needles, and is your most predictable and cooperative and standard tree.

Which is why I can’t abide the thought of having one this year.  I am tired of being all of the above things, and I want something different.  I want an ethereal, ephemeral, graceful delightfully exuberant tree.  Not the sturdy kind you’d call to track down something at the office; not the kind you’d call to babysit in an emergency; not the kind from which you’d seek advice on income taxes; not the kind you’d expect to be rock-solid in a crisis.

This year, I want the kind of tree you’d see smoking a cigarette in the bar of the Plaza Hotel.  I want the kind of tree which leaves a wake of irresponsible and frivolous long needles.  I want the kind of tree you’d never expect to show up on time or water your houseplants on vacation; the kind of tree who looks like she has a closetful of glamorous and inappropriate adornments; the kind of tree who might be living off of a trust fund she didn’t earn; the kind of tree that looks like a cloud of light and angels and tinsel from the street.  A wispy meringue of a tree.  A tree with a zillion lights.

Julia was asking me to explain it one more time in the car after the third fraser fir lot.  I told her I wanted the exact gorgeous tree they had at Capital Club 16.  I didn’t say this next part out loud, because I was already looking crazy after six Christmas tree lots (seven, if you count the second trip to the Farmer’s Market) but it’s like the trick my old bowling team used to do.  We were all teachers, and we bowled in the Thursday night NCSU league at Western Lanes. “Face Down in the Gutter,” we were called, and when started to lose badly we’d all huddle up, do a secret handshake, then turn our shirts inside out.  Worked every time.  Or not, didn’t matter, it was fun.  Sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands and turn things inside out.  What I did say in the car last night was, “If you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got, and THIS TIME IT WILL BE DIFFERENT.”

I put out a plea this morning for white pines.  My friend Chad called his tree guy; another guy gave me a tip that turned out to be a false lead; at that point, I just started driving.  After lot number eight, I texted Julia: why why why.  Why no white pines.  And then we got into a discussion of whether this was a lesson in flexibility, or stubbornness, or just a symptom of becoming completely unhinged about returning to work on Monday.  I told Julia I was staying on the road I was on until I found my tree, if it meant I ended up in Virginia.  I considered it a lesson in Getting What You Want, and figured one white pine was not too much to ask for, at whatever level of effort.  I had a full tank of gas.  I stopped for Christmas Tree Quest snacks.


I did a drive-by at lot number 9, to no avail, and then figured, hell, I’d drive as far as I needed to in order to get one.  I asked Siri to find me a Christmas tree farm.  She ignored my actual request, but said, “there are fifteen Christmas tree vendors fairly close to you.”

Boo-ya.  Five minutes later. Lot number 10.  White pines.

Ten minutes later my eight foot tall white pine and I drove home.  I’d asked for a five foot one.  I got the smallest one they had, which the guy and I would have sworn was six feet or so.  ‘Parently things look smaller on a Christmas tree lot.  That thing is huge.  I don’t mind.  Tomorrow I’m going to cover it with a zillion lights and play Christmas movies and decorate it exuberantly.

So I looked at this picture of two of my lovely, lovely friends, with the Capital Club 16 tree in the background.  They were saying such nice things to me and propping me up after being injured and we were all talking about great things ahead.  They were so pretty in the holiday light (just like they always are) that I had to take a picture mid-sentence.


See? See how pretty they are?  See the gorgeous tree in the background?  And do you see that it is CLEARLY a fraser fir?  It was never a white pine to start with?

Fine.  I’ll admit it.  Unhinged in any number of dimensions.  Holiday madness has set in.

But I got what I wanted anyway.

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