Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Griswold Family Christmas

It's skinnier than last year, right?
I always thought I was Ellen. You know, the one keeping everything together, hacking the cabbage in half instead of smoking her cigarette in the back?

I realized this weekend that I might be Clark.

This weekend was our annual Christmas tree hunt, where we head out into the National Forest and pray that what we bring home doesn't have something living in it. After the disaster that has been Christmas trees of years past (see here, and here), I was pretty sure we needed adult supervision, so we called up one of our cadets, Joseph, to come along. He's a lot of fun and also easy-going, so we had the makings of a good day. Add to it, the weather was absolutely gorgeous - mid-50's and full sun. The hunt was on. Criteria: not too fat, straight trunk.

That thing wouldn't fit in our yard!
It's not going in our yard, it's going in our living room.
Our destination was south of Lake George and east of Eleven-Mile Canyon, in an area totally open for picking for miles. After one wrong turn down a gorgeous but protected canyon, we found our area and started the hunt, which meant staring out the car windows and slamming to a stop any time anyone thought they saw something.

We stopped several times, came up with a viable candidate, then moved on to see what else might be out there. At one point, we tried tromping across a creek, which was fine until the surrounding area was sodden and Eric lost a shoe in the muck. We abandoned that tree for easier hunting grounds.

Around a bend in the road, I thought I saw a tree and Joseph thought he saw another. We stopped and had just about settled on one, so Eric went to go get the car. Something caught his attention, so we hustled across the road, and found one, then two that we debated over. With queasiness in my stomach, we finally settled on one.

It's a Griswold sized tree.

And... full.

Seriously, if this tree had dragged on the ground behind HailNo, I wouldn't have been surprised.

Joseph calls this the "harvest shot." Like after you shoot a deer.
We cut it down, each taking a turn with the saw. The guys hauled it up the hill, and got it on top of the car with minimal damage (to the tree, car or them.)

We then took it back on the highway. We generated some looks from passing motorists who were clearly dubious about the amount of tree hanging off the back end.

Because I'm OCD, and trees in the woods are notoriously dusty and/or filled with creatures/remains of creatures, I wanted to spray the tree down before it came in the house, like we did last year. That's when Eric came up an ingenious idea: the self-service car wash.

So we went!
You didn't drive us all the way out here just to buy one of those
stupid ties, did you?

And yes, this generated more strange looks as we pulled into the bay with a tree on top of the car and I got out and started hosing it down, but it worked... except for the gaps in the doors caused by the ratcheting straps we strung through them to keep the tree attached to the car. Joseph, in the backseat, got a little wet. But the tree got cleaned off and driving the rest of the way home helped it dry a little. I think we have a new tradition!

When we got home, we set it up in the stand in the driveway, and it immediately fell over. After fiddling and a couple of extra rounds with the saw on the base, we got it standing, and went in for lunch. The guys demolished a smoked tri-tip (have I ever mentioned that Eric has a slight obsession with his smoker? He does a bang up job, or at least as far as a vegetarian like me can smell!) Then we pushed the furniture out of the way in the living room and brought the tree inside.

Don't judge. Like Margot said,
Christmas trees are dirty and messy. 
Holy cow. I wasn't going to get to the top of the tree with the ladder. That tree is at least 16 feet tall.

We resorted to pulling the tree (including several rounds of re-centering it in the base as it tilted one way, then the other) to the edge of the second floor landing, where I clambered upstairs, leaned over the side, and Joseph and I put the top set of lights on the tree and engineered the star to stay on the top. It wobbles a bit but it's tied down with fishing line. Then back downstairs and onto the ladder to complete the lights... including a trip to the store to buy even more lights, because every time I tell a tree story, it has to include MORE FREAKING LIGHTS. While I head to the store, Eric manages to fix all our house problems, including installing an expansion tank on our hot water heater AND a new fan for the basement fridge, because he's awesome and we apparently can never do just one project at a time.

After some more tree finagling that included lines like "ok, let go and see what happens," we were back to the top of the stairs to put ornaments on top, then back down to CAREFULLY push the tree from one side of the living room, in the process completing a move that approximated a geriatric doing the worm, but it worked. Eric then got out the marlin-strength fishing line and screws, and made sure we the tree was anchored to the walls. Never say we don't learn from our mistakes.
Not the most conventional use of yoga, but
it did the trick.

It was then time to finish decorating. Like carnies of old, I went "no net" on the high wire, and got the decorations on the tree. At points, I literally called out to Eric: "Hold my foot!" to which he would come over, grab my foot, and I would complete some Warrior-pose to stretch just a tiny bit further to reach the branch I was aiming for. Finally, I set the squirrel in position to hide the mid-tree clutch of connections, and bang. Tree decorated.

The next day, only half the damn lights worked, and it was the NEW half of the lights.

Turns out, you can't string quite so many lights together, because you blow a line fuse. Fortunately, Christmas lights, even the cheap junk I buy, come with extra fuses. A bit of tree spelunking later, and I had found the bum string, tweezered out the fuse and replaced it. I need a scout badge or something.

It's now been 48 hours and the tree is still up. No lights have gone off and none of the ornaments have dropped. I'd like to say I'm hopeful, but this IS our house. Good thing we don't have a cat, nor smoke cigars.

I'll be treading carefully anyway.

Dear Lord, please, just one year without a total
disaster? I don't want help from
Jack Daniels!

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