Christmas Hair

The plastic Christmas tree is a vast improvement over the natural tree.

[One], I didn’t have to kill it.

And [B], I don’t have to deal with spiders crawling out of it in the middle of the night and eating my brain.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Yet I still feel guilty somehow, like I’ve committed the ultimate Sin against Holiday Tradition by taking the Holiest of Family icons and replacing it with plastic. Plastic is fine for the baby Jesus on the front lawn … it’s even better if you light if from the inside with a 900 watt searchlight that you can see from space. Baby Jesus projected on the clouds like some kind of holy Bat Signal.

But plastic is somehow innately wrong for the tree.

I don’t miss wandering around the supermarket parking lot inhaling diesel fumes, lost in a maze of cyclone fencing, trying to pick out the best dried-out tree nailed to a wooden two-by-four cross like some kind of weird evergreen crucifix.

And I don’t miss hunting it down myself during my one annual trek to the local hills where snaggle-toothed hillbillies who spend the balance of the year raising punkins charge me seventy-five dollars a foot to watch me cut down my own tree with a dull saw.

But I do miss loading all my kids in the car, cruising from one crowded grocery store parking lot to another in search of the cheapest five feet of decrepit, uneven, rapidly decomposing wad of Tannenbaum, struggling not to let them adopt every 24-inch bare-assed little Charlie Brown shrub we stumble across.

I do miss sliding around the muddy hillside in white tennis shoes, trying to remember whether it was the Noble Fir, the Ponderosa Pine or the California Silver-tip Gravenstein Sierra Madre Mark IV that was under sixty-three dollars a foot and wondering why I ever thought I’d be able to identify any one of them by sight anyway, as the kids mark the latest perfect tree with a coffee cup we find on the trail and then promptly forget which of the hundred-and-ninety-seven acres held that flawless specimen because they instantly find another more perfect tree two minutes later.

And although I don’t miss its crappy little combustible needles all over my living room, turning up in my socks for the next six months like forgotten Easter eggs that you don’t find until after you’ve spent a week emptying cans of Lysol behind the refrigerator and asking your friends if they smell what you smell, I do miss the smell of a real tree, the daily watering, and the odd little dance the two of us do as we cha-cha around the living room trying desperately to find the side that won’t embarrass us with its bald spot.

There is something oddly comforting about the tree giving its all, standing sentinel in my living room for three weeks in its Sunday best. There’s comfort and tradition in the process of hunting and gathering, of communing, of pruning and decorating and lighting and watering and nurturing, watching the tree go to the extreme to bring me and mine happiness and holiday spirit. There’s distinction in seeing the branches and the trunk slowly showing through the thin spots, as it dries and droops and drops its needles in a protective circle around the perimeter of the ceramic town with the plastic train, something you don’t get with a plastic tree, no matter how many automotive air fresheners you hang on it. There’s wisdom, and history, and sacrifice in watching the tree slowly going bald.

Buying a plastic tree is for people who think that it’s the tree itself that’s important. It means forgetting about the process, and focusing instead on the thing, and missing the forest for the trees.

Speaking of which, I had a woman ask me once if I would ever consider getting a hair transplant. Asking a man to consider getting a hair transplant is like asking a woman if she’d consider getting breast implants.

What’s wrong with my hair? Isn’t my hair good enough for her? Has she been looking at somebody else’s hair?

Oh, sure, of course, she says, I love your hair just the way it is, she says. It’s just, well, wouldn’t you like to have a little more hair?

Maybe she’d like me to have big thick hair? Is that it? Like that guy at her office? Or Michael Landon? What’s the matter, Kelsey Grammer isn’t good enough for her? Bruce Willis not man enough?

Look, I’m not happy about the Friar Tuck reflector on the back of my head, the inverse Yarmulke around which my remaining hair circles like a group of whispy gray children playing ring around the sunburned scalp. I have to admit I considered the transplant for a few minutes. I even considered the weave.

I didn’t consider the comb over, or the can of hair. Somehow making a hat out of my own hair holds no interest and fools no one, and having to walk like I’m balancing a book to keep the brown Christmas flocking from sliding off my head just makes me look like a prima donna. Cheez Whiz is for crackers.

But buying the plastic hair, or even rearranging the landscaping, puts the focus on the thing, and forgets about the process. I have no desire to cover up the evidence of my wisdom and experience. I don’t want anyone to forget about the journey of years and pain and failure and disappointment that got me here. Those plastic trees, they may be convenient and look pretty, but they’ve never been alive. They haven’t suffered. So don’t ask me to deck myself in aluminum and fiberglass.

Just quit being such a shallow lazy bitch, and take the time to adventure into the woods and hunt me down. Spend a little time slopping around in the mudflats that are my history, dammit. Go to the trouble of breathing a little diesel fuel and getting lost in a cyclone maze, do a little comparison-shopping to understand why it’s worth it to overlook that uneven spot. Go ahead and hang an old coffee cup on me, so you know where to find me when you’re ready.

You can just turn my back against the wall when company comes over, and spread a sheet around my feet.

Oh yeah. Merry Freakin’ Christmas.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got.

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