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?”
“Frasiers.”
“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.  

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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.

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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.  

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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.

Last Monday

At lunch in the city I saw someone across the room who was a pretty good friend of mine in college. I was trapped on the wrong side of a large table, so getting up and saying hello would have been a huge distraction: drawing a lot of attention to me and isolating my kid (who was sitting next to me). I had nearly summoned the energy to do it anyway, when she was joined by a male friend that I did not recognize, and I gave up.  While I ate, she glanced over at me at least once, but either she did not see me or she did not want to see me. It is also possible that she saw me but did not remember me, even though my kid looks like a 14-year-old version of his father, who she also knew.
It is not a wholly new situation; we have all been in it before. You wait for the chatty neighbor to get in his car and drive away so you won’t have to say hello. You ignore the fact that Leon Redbone is struggling to be re-booked at a USAirwayscounter because you know that celebrities deserve to suffer the humiliations of airline travel undisturbed. You pretend you don’t see your grandpa in Steak ‘n Shake because you go there to smoke and it’s your super-secret hideout.
Meanwhile, my husband, sometimes known as the Bacon Provider, got an email at work that day. Now he is a bit of a Medium Cheese in the world, having been on the creation end of a number of gadgety electrical things like the Xbox and tablets, and recently enjoyed a bit of extra media attention owing to his quitting work.
Well, the Medium Cheese got one of those creepy do-you-remember-me-?emails on his work account. Apparently, a woman who went to elementary school with him one year remembered his name and wondered, something like 35 years later, whatever happened to that guy?  The Medium Cheese’s family moved frequently when he was a kid, and his quiet, studious nature had left an impression. “I’m sure you don’t remember me, but I’ve never forgotten you…. I often wondered how you turned out. Imagine my surprise at when I Googled you. I’m so relieved you didn’t turn into a serial killer.”  
Apparently there just aren’t that many serial killers around anymore. When they are revealed, there is the usual set of interviews with the neighbors, who always say the vicious murderer was “kind of quiet.” Who doesn’t fit this description? David Lee Roth? 
The Medium Cheese is mostly unperturbed by the creepy email, and I think it bothers me more. This is a guy who will not kill spiders and who once stopped his Mercedes on the 520 bridge to rescue a baby duck.  But then again,  they say Hitler was an animal lover