Not For The Faint Of Heart

By Bill Kirk

Christmas tree shopping can now safely be added near the top of the list of life's all-time stress producers. It's got to be right up there with purchasing a new mattress, remodeling the kitchen or babysitting six-month old triplets on Black Friday while your wife goes shopping from 4:00 a.m. until sunset. OK, so we don't have triplets. But you get the idea.

Tree acquisition is usually triggered by someone remembering the holidays. In the unlikely event the holiday season tends to slip your mind, don't despair. There's plenty of help. Serious product ads and store displays start appearing some time after Labor Day. I even saw a Memorial Day sale ad last spring enjoining shoppers to beat the winter holiday rush, with no interest until 2020. I'm serious-2020! Could a support group for delinquent tree trimmers be far behind?

Once your wife decides it's time to get the tree, there's no turning back. So, to avoid a painful confrontation, it's generally best to write a trip to the Christmas tree lot into your Planner on a date immediately after Thanksgiving. For those with a high risk tolerance, pushing the date out until the Thanksgiving left-overs are gone might work. But I would eat fast.

On the other hand, you could volunteer to get a tree before Thanksgiving. However, that would likely be viewed as sucking up. And did I mention ridicule? If there's a decorated tree in your front window before Thanksgiving, I'd keep the drapes closed to avoid being the object of derisive laughter among your male peers at every holiday party through at least Saint Pattie's Day.

Assuming you make the right timing decision, on the day of the big purchase you will be richly rewarded if you think to take someone with you to share the experience. Simply translated that means, whatever you do, avoid going alone like the plague. Trust me, tree selection is a decision you do not want to make on your own. If you do, make sure the spare bedroom is open and comfortable as that's where your mail will likely be delivered through the end of the year.

If no other option is available, call in a marker and take another male with you to help deflect the blame when you totally screw things up. Your buying guide should be someone highly regarded by your wife-you know, like Josh Groban, Dr. Phil or the Iron Chef. However, in the event you don't know someone rich and famous who can cook or sing, take children-preferably related to you. No more than three is best. And remember to lavish praise on them when they pick the tree. You'll want them beaming when your wife first sees them marching through the front door toting their Charlie Brown tree.

It goes without saying, the gold standard is convincing your wife to come with you. Surely, if you put your heart into the invitation, she would willingly leave the warmth of hearth and home for a trip to the cold, poorly lit and newly sprouted urban forest, AKA Jack's Tree Lot. Once there, she would no doubt relish hearing your carefully studied views of height versus girth, spruce versus pine, relative trunk curvature, growth patterns, limb distribution and, of course, moisture content. By next summer you'll both remember this as a bonding experience.

With any luck, you'll be in and out of the lot in less than ten minutes after picking the first tree you come to. Hey, it could happen. However, as a precaution, it might be prudent to bring along a thermos and some snacks. Better yet, if you have room in your trunk, consider tossing in a stocked cooler and that small, portable grill you got last Christmas-you could be there for a while.

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