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Suburban Diary

A tree crashes his Christmas spirit

The author’s uncooperative Christmas tree at his home in Manchester, N.H.

Rob Azevedo for the Boston Globe

The author’s uncooperative Christmas tree at his home in Manchester, N.H.

I tried. I really tried.

Each notion associated with seasonal sentimentality was present, I swear, right down to the donning of a winter hat, something I enjoy refusing to do. And for the same reasons
I wear wood clogs when tiling bathrooms, I dressed the part when I went searching for this year’s Christmas tree. Work gloves limping out my back pocket and everything.

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I was rolling solo. Not for any real reason. I just happened to get up late on a recent Saturday and the house was empty. I went to the kitchen and found a note that read: “Get tree. You’re rolling solo.”

Fine, I thought. If the intimidator intended to shake me by assigning what I consider a significant task, well, she picked the wrong season to corner me. I’d been planning my Christmas Comeback for weeks now.

This year I vowed to enjoy the buildup to Christmas, actually feel it. Be gone with the cranky puss and wallet-worn glares. I’d join the carolers, help old women string lights, maybe even crash midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

At least that was the plan.

And now the day was mine. First things first, let’s get the fur off from the night before. Hot shower, towel down. Closet full of club shirts. Head to the back. Boom, right there. A hot red-and-black checkered flannel shirt. “You’re coming with me,” I said, peeling it off the hook.

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Step outside and, yup, it was Christmas tree shopping weather. Just as hateful and gray as all late November days. I bombed to Pembroke to buy my tree because frugality is essential in the rebuilding of the Christmas spirit, and some cat was selling “All Trees for $30.”

“Want me to cut the end off, sir?” an ambitious kid asked.

“Nah, son,” I said. “I’ll get the saw out when I get home.”

I swear he winked.

As I prepared to haul the tree into the house and surprise the troops with it ready to be garnished, I noticed how barren the front of my house looked. Flat mulch, brown grass, and dead leaves were the only things that adorned my humble property.

I hurried to the basement in search of the outside Christmas lights. What a disaster! My boots got caught on a radio cord, a training bra, a snow shoe, and a pink 5-pound dumbbell. Where are you? Oh, there you are.

I scampered outside and got to work.

OK, where does this go? How do I . . . ? Where do I plug this in?

Steady, steady. I started to hum, “O holy night, the stars . . .”

An hour later, after netting the bushes, sinking the spotlight and reindeer, hanging two wreaths, and uncoiling what seemed like a thousand extension cords, the family rolled in.

I started dusting my thigh with my work gloves, Clint-like.

But the look on their faces was of displeasure and contempt.

You have too many different styles going on.

Why is the spotlight shining into the street?

You’re not going to put garland around the doorway?

“O holy night . . . ”

I sat them all down and explained my Christmas Comeback. “I’ve been faking it all these years, kids. I’ve been grimmer than the Grinch on the inside, more hostile than the Heat Miser. I promise to rise like Ebenezer this Christmas. But I need your support.”

They only stared.

I went to steadying the tree into the stand. “No, don’t help. I have it,” I cried from under the tree. Tad cocked, but once she drops, I told them, her consistency would follow.

“Now hurry up and get dark outside!” I barked at the dining room windows. I wanted to prove to my family that blinking blue lights work well with the near-yellow bulbs draped over the evergreens.

The house was warm and finally, it was night. Mathis crooned as my darlings pulled ornaments from boxes. Each placement swelled my heart. It was happening! I was refilling my trough with Christmas spirit. The joy, the “O holy night . . . ”

Finally, the house was quiet. I noticed the tree still leaned a bit forward, but she was strong, a glorious sight, all sparkly and bright. The transformation was complete. I went to the basement to reflect on the day when I heard the spirit of Christmas die inside me.

Boom! Something big fell upstairs.

“Daddy, the Christmas tree just did a face plant. Water’s going everywhere!”

O, forget this night.  

Rob Azevedo grew up in Melrose and lives in Manchester, N.H. He can be reached at onemanmanch@gmail.com.

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