And so it was that the family ate their way through leftovers for a whole day and night. And they went to the playgrounds, and to lunch, in the streets near their home, as they contemplated the long holiday month ahead. And there were in the same neighborhood pine tree vendors abiding in the park, keeping watch over their wreaths by night.
For several years now, I have plodded off to the open-air tree market that poofs into existence every year to serve the piney needs of the greater North Brooklyn area. In each of those years, I pony up twenty bucks for a cute little wreath to hang on my door, because I know better than to buy an actual tree. But this year is different, because:
I have a sentient child who is aware of Christmas, and
We plan to be trapped in our apartment for the duration of the year
And, lo, like an angel of the lord, I descended upon the vendors and made it clear that I intended to buy an actual tree—about yea wide and yea tall—and I was sore afraid. As Kina frolicked around a giant inflatable Charlie Brown Christmas train, I stood and watched as one of the vendors cut the netting from tree after tree, trying to find a tree that could both fit in my apartment and not bring down upon me the scorn of my family. I recognized in that moment a sales pattern still familiar from this summer’s month of car-buying: “This item that you have selected—does it actually meet your standards, now that you gaze upon it? No? Perhaps if you were to compare it with this slightly more expensive item—which you would be under no obligation to purchase—you would see in full glory the wisdom and frugality of your sacrifice.” I know now that the spindly Charlie Brown tree I was first shown was a sacrificial tree, but at the time, I felt like a shrewd consumer, and as I watched Kina hop around the Fraser firs, I knew she deserved a fuller, taller, more expensive pine tree.
And so it came to pass that I bought that fuller, taller, pricier tree (and a fifteen dollar plastic tree stand, to boot). That tree is now bursting out of a corner of our living room formerly occupied by a rocking chair that we bought in the days before our baby was born—a space that exists principally for Kina’s pleasure, as it turns out. We needed some lights, which led to my spending half an hour in the holiday aisle of the hardware store, trying to summon up whatever equations I could from my linear algebra class in college to help me figure out how long a strand of lights I needed to dress a tree about yea wide and yea tall. Laurea, who claims to be an expert in tree decoration, draped the lights around the tree herself, discovering in the process that my vector math was off by about half the necessary lights—which Laurea and I eventually agreed was fine, given that nobody can see the back of our tree. For my part, I dug up an old wi-fi light switch that allows us to turn our tree on and off from anywhere in the modern universe. Kina contributed the tiny LED Christmas tree I stole from my office holiday party two years ago, placing it gently beneath the majestic boughs of its farm-grown sibling. There is a single ornament—a unicorn (yes, another one) that Laurea and I bought at the Cloisters the other day and have since dubbed “the unicornament”—and the promise of a garland and star to be named later.
The internet tells me that our tree will last, when meticulously watered, at least five weeks. Somewhere in those five weeks, we’ll wrap some presents and hide them in various closets throughout the house, arraying them underneath our tree’s widest branches on Christmas Eve. In the morning, if she’s anything like her father was at her age, she will tear into those presents like a crazed wombat in the hours before we wake, growing drunk on chocolate and novelty. She will play quietly with her toys in the multicolor glow of the tree’s light, in yet another perfectly normal abnormal ritual in this abnormally normal year.
Our house will smell of pine needles. That’s a good end to things.