I picked one.

What I saw: the trees that were left.

What I did beforehand: the last few years we lived in the country and found places to cut our own Christmas tree. It was never a matter of looking them up; there would be hand-lettered sandwich boards on the side of the road. 

This year, the Bacon Provider has been traveling so much I was worried we’ wouldn’t find time to get one together. 

I asked Google. It offered Hartsdale, NY and Danbury, CT, both of which stretch the definition of “near.” I revisited the garden center mystery, which I have  tried to solve almost monthly since moving here; where do my neighbors buy plants, I ask. I found one a bit over four miles away, on a road I haven’t driven. I called.

“Do you have Christmas trees?” I asked.
“Yes, we still have some left,” a woman replied. “But all of the 11 foot ones are gone. We only have the 9 foot and 7 foot trees.”
“What kind are they?”
“What are your hours?” 
“9 to 5.”

Something I ate: cereal.

What I wore: jeans. Waterproof boots. My biggest puff coat. 

Why I saw this show: my mother’s love of archly tasteful Christmas decorations and slavish devotion to giving us what we asked for color my every Christmas impulse.  


Who went with me: the Bacon Provider was delighted to go. We took the truck. It seemed grumpy about starting, because of the cold. The steering wheel squeaked familiarly as steered out of the driveway. We talked about when we will get a new truck. 

How I chose: I didn’t know where to park since ours was the only vehicle. We were greeted by a guy in work gloves who seemed relieved to have a customer. He apologized for how few trees they had left.
“We only need one,” I said, though on the way over we had discussed the possibility of getting two.


Things that were funny: the Bacon Provider always wants a perfect tree, and will gladly spend 20 minutes considering every angle of every tree available, including the ones that are clearly too tall. He and the guy who worked there stood trees up for me to look at. After the fifth tree I went back to the first one. 

“This one is the best,” I said. I didn’t mean it. I was bored. All trees are somewhat imperfect. As long as the trunk is reasonably straight, you can find a presentable side.

I opened the tailgate of the truck and went to look at wreaths.  

Things that were sad: another couple arrived, he a tall, dark-haired capitalist in a navy cashmere overcoat, she a gently aging blond trophy in a quilted Barbour jacket. They considered whether the enormous 48” wreath was the right size for what they needed. I tried not to smirk. A very pale, older woman came out and caught the capitalist’s wife’s eye. 
“Oh, hello!” said the capitalist’s wife. “So nice to see you. How are you?”
“Not well,” began the older woman. “I lost my son.” Tears poured from her eyes. 
The capitalist’s wife hugged her. 

I turned to the little live trees and engaged the attention of a third employee. 
“Do you have a matching pair in this size?” I asked. 
“Yes, we do.”
“Do you know how big they will get? If I put them in the ground, I need to know how tall they will be. You, know, eventually.”

Things that were not funny: when we went inside to pay, there was a stack of photos of the dead son. He appeared to have been in his early 40s. The sad, older woman came in. I told her how sorry I was. She told me he had run the business, and had done all the ordering. Then, he had gotten sick, but not very sick. And then, he had died. Just in a matter of days. The whole family had had to come and pitch in. She said everything felt like a dream.

Where I sat: I had driven there. The Bacon Provider drove back. I had to tell him which way to turn. I said that I thought that Christmas would be forever sad and ruined for the family that owned that garden center.

What it is: my mother’s birthday is 9 days before Christmas, and so, though she died in April, for me the holiday season is as much about grieving her as anything else.  


Who should see it: we haven’t started decorating it yet.

Schwartz moves in for his inspection

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What I saw on the way home: the Bedhead Hills Office of Gravel and Thoroughfares regraded the dirt road on the way to our house, but I realized that they left many of the potholes intact. They function like speed bumps.

A Letter to my Dad

17 August 2002

Ddddddddddddear Dad,
In the first dream, you were trying to call me on the phone,
No, in fact, you did call on the phone, and I answered.  But you didn‘t know you were dead.  So I talked to you for a while and you never got a clue.  I told you I was fine and you seemed glad.  I am fine, by the way.
The other night I dreamed about you again.  This time you were around, and you still didn’t know you were dead, even though you’ve been dead now for more than four years.  You were solid, three-dimensional and all, but starting to fade and become transparent.  You had on brown corduroy pleated slacks and a plaid shirt and a woven belt and loafers.  You might have been tan. 
Why do I dream that you don’t know you’re dead?  Did you fool yourself so well in life that it has spilled over into your afterlife?  Isn’t this the only afterlife you’re getting?
24 August 2002
Dear Dad,
You are still dead.  Today I got a lot of scratches on my arms from pulling scotch broom, wild roses and blackberries.  I used a tool that I think is like a pick axe and I nearly broke it.  The tool is old and the handle loose and now cracked.  I thought of you because I was using the tool incorrectly and you liked to yell at us for using tools incorrectly even though you really were not a handy guy. Now that you are dead, you don’t have to be handy.
2 September 2002
Dear Dad,
Andy wrote a poem the other day and mailed it to me.  He thinks you died not knowing my phone number and since we’re unlisted you’d have to call Mom to get it.  You’d have to promise her a check.  I also think that if you called her she would pretend she didn’t know you were dead.  Here is my poem:
Dear Dad,
If you call Mom for my number, she’ll pretend she doesn’t know you are dead.  She hopes that way she’ll see some money out of you, somehow.
And she doesn’t want to have to be the person who breaks the bad news to you. 
You might have to call Mom at work.  She has the same number as ever.  Do you  know it?
If you call me, what will the caller-id say?
Love, Mag
P.S. If you call Mom and John answers, he will know just what to do, because he’s the kind of guy who has dealt with stuff like that before.
When I walk down stairs and the house is quiet, I hear my joints popping and snapping like yours did.