Now seems like as good a time as any to tell the tale of the worst Christmas decorating experience any man has ever endured.
The Story Behind the Object
Growing up, my family always went to the mountains to get our Christmas tree. We didn’t exactly do it Griswold-style, as we went to a legit farm and had the folks working there do the cutting and whatnot, but it was somewhat similar, so you can picture us as Clark and the gang if that makes it easier for you to envision. Side note, did you know that Rusty Griswold grew up to become Leonard Hofstadter? I learned this five or more years ago, yet each year when I fire up Christmas Vacation I’m amazed all over again.
Anyway, as I was saying, on Thanksgiving weekend we’d all pile into the Toyo Wagon (see my previous column about car flags for an image of this amazing vehicle) and make our way up to Black Mountain or West Jefferson or some other place in the North Carolina mountains for the annual selection of the Christmas tree.
As it turns out, my wife’s family had this same tradition when she was growing up, so we have mostly continued to do this since we’ve been married. I’d say we’re on more of an every other year type of schedule. It’s a long drive, so it seems like each time we make it, I say to myself “I’m not doing this next year,” and then the next year I go to Home Depot or Walmart and say to myself “Man, that sucked, next year I’m going back to the mountains.” And I do.
But on Black Friday 2014, I came within inches of swearing off real trees altogether and just buying an artificial tree. I can laugh and write about it now, but at the time this story took place, I was borderline ready to never celebrate Christmas again…
Things started off well enough. We headed to the mountains and found a nice-looking tree farm at which to stop. We meticulously picked out the perfect tree - not too short, not too tall, not too fat, not too skinny. Kind of like me, now that I think about it. Once selected, we took our little card with our last name written on it and twist tied it to the tree to signify it was taken. Sorry, other tree hunters, this bad boy was off the market! We pretty much put a ring on it.
Then the tree farm employees came over, cut the tree down, flung it onto their trailer, and took it to the front of the farm. There, they ran the tree through a baler. We had taken the kids back to the car to grab some snacks while we waited, so I watched this process from a distance. I do recall that the two guys that ran the tree through the baler looked at one another a little funny when it came out, but they then seemed to be satisfied that everything worked properly. In hindsight, I should have asked these nice fellas if they suspected any sort of shenanigans, but instead I simply pulled the car up, tied the tree to the top, and we set off for home.
Once home, I lugged the tree off the top of the car and found the tree stand in the garage. I then took great pains to get the tree into the stand in a manner where it would stand up perfectly straight and carried it - still baled - into the house. We positioned it by the window near the fireplace in the living room and admired just how centered it was in the room and how it came just close enough to the ceiling without touching it. And then it was time for the annual tradition - the cutting of the twine, so that the tree could spring to life in all its glory.
You know the moment in Christmas Vacation. Clark does some cutting and then the tree fills the entire room and even busts through the window. So I pull my best Griswold. Snip. Snip. Snip. Snip. And then, right on cue, the limbs exploded to their pre-baled positions, ready to be adorned with ornaments. At least the top four feet of the tree’s limbs did. The bottom four feet, however, fell to the ground. The baler had snapped every last one of them right off the stump. Every limb. Snapped right off. We had half a tree! Half a tree! Apparently, we would later learn, this can sometimes happen when it has been exceptionally cold prior to baling, which was the case in this particular year.
Luckily, our in-laws somehow knew the owner of the farm or someone related to the owner of the farm or something, and he happened to be leaving the farm the following day and headed right past their house, so he offered to just deliver a similarly sized tree to them (free of charge, of course), which they then brought to us around lunch time on Saturday. And we all laughed and joked about the humor of the tree falling apart, then set the new one up and lived happily ever after.
Just kidding, it got worse.
We spent most of Saturday afternoon decorating the tree. The Tar Heels spent that same time getting waxed on the gridiron by the Wolfpack, eventually falling by a final score of 35-7. Nothing like having some good football to watch while you adorn your tree with ornaments. So I’ve now spent a good portion of the last two days in an agitated (to put it nicely) state. Friday, I’m mad about the tree falling apart. Saturday, I’m mad that Carolina can’t win a football game against the boys from Raleigh. But finally, I calm myself and move on. We put the kids to bed, and it was finally time to sit down on the couch and relax. Maybe even watch Christmas Vacation (I don’t really remember). So I’m upstairs, putting on my usual lounging attire (gym shorts, t-shirt), when I hear a squeal from my wife who is already on the couch.
I bound down the steps, and there I find our newly delivered, freshly decorated Christmas tree turned completely on its side. It just...fell right over. Amazingly, we only experienced one ornament casualty from this debacle. So instead of relaxing on the couch, we spent the next hour or two standing the tree back up, redecorating it, cleaning up all the water that had spilled from it onto our carpet, and then tying it to the wall to avoid a repeat experience. “Hallelujah! Holy $&!*! Where's the Tylenol?”
Luckily, my Tar Heel ornaments were not on that Christmas tree. Nor any tree we’ve ever had. They are far too heavy for it, so I keep them with all of my other Carolina paraphernalia upstairs in the bonus room, where they stay out year round.
Carolina Collectibles Description
There are 15 ornaments in this collection, dating back to 2003. My wife and I receive each year’s version from her parents at Thanksgiving every year. I won’t describe them all, as you can see them from the pictures, but each one basically features Santa Claus doing something in or with a Tar Heel something. Riding in a Tar Heel car or train or hot air balloon. Sitting in a Tar Heel wreath or on a Carolina rocking horse, etc etc.
Carolina Collectibles Comparison: The 8-20 Season
Rather than compare these ornaments to a Tar Heel player, I’m going to compare the story above to a Tar Heel season. The year was 2002. The Carolina basketball record was 8-20. And I was ready to swear off Tar Heel basketball forever. Until the next November rolled around, when I gladly signed up to watch another season featuring freshmen Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants, and Sean May. How quickly the heart forgets scorn, humiliation, and anger, and gladly welcomes back that which caused the pain to begin with.
Carolina Collectibles Rating: 4 Stars
These have been a staple in our home for 15 years now. Actually, my wife and I have only been married since 2005, so the first few years they must have been a staple in her home. But now what’s hers is mine, so muah ha ha! These aren’t seats from the Dean Dome, but they are pretty cool, so we’ll give them 4 stars.