Dollar knew this girl, Jill, that lived on the other side of town in the little brick apartments by herself. I remember going there a couple of times, hanging out, having a beer or two.
It was December and Jill was down in the dumps. Christmas was approaching and she was lonely. I felt bad for her. So, when Dollar stopped over on his way home from school one day, I threw my extra pair of Timberland’s at him, along with a surplus field jacket, grabbed the bow saw and lead him into the woods. Not much was needed by way of explanation.
“Jill seems pretty sad, what with Christmas coming up and all.” I opined.
“And I thought we might bring her a Christmas tree to cheer her up a bit.”
Dollar’s face lit up like an Advent wreath. “Do you have a worthy specimen picked out, Birchwheel?” (he tended to butcher my name, for effect.)
“I do indeed.”
Our spirits thus buoyed, we traipsed off into the local woods as a light snow began to fall. (sometimes things just fall right into place).
At the time I lived along the Route 78 corridor in Onion, NJ. This corridor ran down past my neighborhood and opened up into a patch of woods along the Rahway river. The recent construction of a sound barrier had decimated one of my favorite vistas – that being a big, grassy hill set back from the highway – and I was not pleased.
In retrospect, it was a blessing in disguise. The sound barrier, a 25 foot concrete wall that stretched more than a half mile, sealed off the wooded areas from the highway (and our houses from a lot of noise). This allowed flora and fauna to flourish to the point where deer were walking around where they hadn’t been for years, like behind my house. And that was very cool.
Somehow, a few white pine trees had escaped the bulldozer and now resided on the highway side of the wall. Being as my ‘solitude hill’ had been so rudely bisected, I had no problem with a little ‘quid pro quo’ as it were.
I led Dollar out to the grassy hill and around to the leading edge of the sound barrier. There, about 50 yards or so distant, were the trees. The entire hill was exposed to highway traffic, so we picked our quarry carefully and waited for a break. It was snowing more heavily by now. The prudent highway driver was more concerned with the degrading road conditions than two numbskulls cavorting on a distant hillside.
During a brief period of no cars, we rushed out and attacked our target conifer. It was a lot bigger up close, but Dollar jumped up, grabbed the top and bent it over. With three quick swipes of the saw I separated the top half from the rest of the tree. Laughing joyously we secured our prize and dragged it to safety around the other side of the wall.
I can recall distinctly being filled with holiday spirit as we dragged our freshly harvested Christmas tree through the snow blanketed woods. We sure didn’t know of anyone who cut their own Christmas tree, let alone dragged it out of the woods. It garnered a couple of looks from the locals when we emerged onto the street, but no alarms were raised.
At Jill’s house we were greeted with somewhat of a skeptical eye.
“Merry Christmas, Jill!”, we cheered. “We brought you a Christmas tree!”
“It’s awful big.” Jill remarked, not sure if she should let us in. Indeed it was much larger than we had initially thought.
“That’s ok, Jill. We still have the saw. We can trim it down a bit. Merry Christmas!”
“I never saw a Christmas tree like that before. Where did you get it?”
“You paid for it with your taxes. Merry Christmas!”
I can’t speak for Dollar, but I felt like breaking into a few verses of ‘God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen’ or something like that.
Jill had that look on her face that we were familiar with. It was that ‘You-two-knuckleheads-are- (or were) up-to- something’ look. But she couldn’t deny that it made her feel better.
“Merry Christmas, Jill!”
“OK, ok. Thanks. You want to come in for a beer?”
“Sure!” We chimed.
We wrestled the tree into Jill’s tiny apartment and shoved it into a corner. Well, shoved it into half the kitchen, really. It was a lot bigger than we thought.
“Don’t they spray those trees with some kind of chemical to keep people from cutting them?” Jill asked, prudently.
“Not that I know of. It sure doesn’t smell now.” We inhaled the fresh cut piney goodness.
“Yeah, that’s because they have to warm up first.”
“Nah, can’t be. What would be the sense of emitting a odor AFTER being cut? Seems like they got that backwards, to me.”
We drank our beers and bid Jill adieu. A more happier Jill, I hoped.
About two weeks later we visited Jill again, just to check up on her. She didn’t look pleased.
“Happy New Year, Jill! Where’s the tree?”
“I threw it out. It began to stink something awful. And you want to know how hard a time I had getting that huge f!#@%# thing out of my kitchen?”
“Not really. You should have called us.”
“I did! You weren’t home.”
“Oops. Our bad. Got any beer?”
Damn, I thought. Not only did our well-intentioned jesture go awry, there wasn’t going to be any beer, either. Now I felt like breaking into a chorus of ‘Oh, Holy Night’ a la Bird…
…Oh, holy shiate!
You’ve really screwed us now, Bird
One oversight, and
we can’t quench our thirst.
And so, another kind-hearted jesture, in the name of Christmas spirit, wound up smelling like a dead skunk laying on top of burning tires.
But our hearts were in the right place (I think I can say, at this point).
In case you are wondering – the tree trunk from which Jill’s Christmas Tree was detached – it grew back nicely. We were careful not to cut the tree to the ground and left a good four feet of lush growth. Within two years, I had a hard time telling from a distance which tree we cut. Today, you cannot tell it was ever assaulted.
Lastly, and humbly, I submit this.
Luke 2:8 – 14
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.'”
“…That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”