I think we're in for a Dr. Seuss Christmas.
We've been dumped on again. Another three feet of dry cornstarch snow and more coming over the weekend. We're still shoveling the decks and walkways and raking the roof to ward off ice dams in its valleys.
This latest blizzard made us thirsty for things like hot chocolate, "The Nutcracker" ballet, "It's A Wonderful Life," listening to christmas carols, hanging stockings with care, and putting up a Christmas tree. Like the Who's of Who-ville, we like Christmas a lot.
As the snow swirled around our house, my daughter Maguy and her friend Dennis went out into the blizzard and got our christmas tree -- the kind that's the last tree standing in an empty lot surrounded by tracks of pine needles left behind by all the popular trees who found a home.
It's the kind of tree I pass up not giving it a second thought because it's twisted. Badly twisted. It has a straight trunk and then, halfway up, makes a big zig with no zag so that the angel on top looks like it's a few yards east or west from the base. If the trunk could be straightened out it would go from its current six feet tall to at least nine or ten. I swear.
Like one of the many orphans we've had at our table during the holidays -- kids who come here to work and ski on the mountain and have families far far from here -- we took it in and adopted it wholeheartedly. (It has nothing to do with the fact it was the last tree in the only lot in Crested Butte.)
I call it a Dr. Seuss tree -- the kind you would expect to find in Who-ville. The kind of tree the Grinch would steal from little Cindy-Lou Who and hold captive in his lair high up the mountain above the town.
He'd break the branches and decorate it with worms, not tinsel, garlic for bulbs, toe corns instead of pop, wrapped with a cord of sullen, dark lights 'cause one little light is missing, carelessly slung empty, smelly, rusty tin cans for ornaments, a fallen angel hanging precariously at the top, and presents under the tree made of chunks of sooty coal wrapped in old, yellowed newspapers.
Anyway, we wrestled with that orphan tree for hours. I swear it had a life of its own and enjoyed the game.
But I'm getting ahead of myself here.
First, Maguy got it into our home by dragging it through the downstairs and up our zig zag staircase and across one of our Persian rugs into a corner of the living room spreading not joy but pine needles, sap and snow along her way. We had to get it onto the terra cotta floor tiles to let the snow on it melt off and roll up corners of large, heavy rugs so they wouldn't get wet and rot.
Once it was dry, we tried tilting the trunk to make the top appear above the base rather than way off course, and finally, after calculating its latitude and longitude, figured out the trunk part had to go in straight no matter what. And the darn thing kept falling over anyway time after time after time.
We kept screwing into the trunk and unscrewing out eight 6-inch long screws while lying under the tree battling sap droppings and getting pine needles and pinecone dust in our eyes -- well, at least I did.
I always dive head first into a project and think I can fix it. Not this one!
All sweaty and dreadlocked with sappy, needley, disintegrating rug pad rust dust, we got it placed. And when we stood back to admire our efforts discovered it was full of large holes -- the kind a Grinch would punch into it for fun. They looked painful like cavities.
So I had an ingenious idea. A Christmas first. I tied the branches close together with turkey trussing string to close the gaps and stuffed the tree, like a turkey, with fake pine branches I decorate the banister with, and filled in that doggone Green Eggs And Ham tree and made it almost handsome. We filled the stand with water to appease its thirst.
Satisfied and pooped, we went to different rooms to scrub off the sap, brush off the needles, and take a nap. We would decorate it later.
I was just exhaling on my bed when I heard a loud whoosh - like the snow shedding off the roof. I ran into the living room and there was The Tree -- splayed out across the living room playing dead with water seeping out from under it, like blood, into the Persian rug that runs the length and breadth of our living room. The rug that can't be picked up and aired out.
Suffice it to say I cleaned up what I could, shoved a resisting couch out of the way to roll back the ungainly rug as far as I could manage to dry it out and tried to right this wrong tree and couldn't and then leaned it against the wall. The zig in its trunk faced so far forward it kept falling over anyway like a drunk.
I finally wrestled it into a position I thought trustworthy and turned my back on it and quickly spun around to catch it in the act. It stared back at me perfectly and annoyingly still. I could have sworn it smirked at me.
With a great exhale, I called on the troops and once again we all struggled to stabilize it in our tree stand and failed.
Finally a tiny light bulb went off in my head like a teeny christmas tree light. The base of the tree was not hitting the bottom of our tree stand. Instead it was floating on four thick, low branches, teetering this way and that to keep its balance like a high wire act. H-E-L-L-O.
We needed a saw so Maguy volunteered to make the arduous journey out to the garage to get a hold of one -- a long round trip wading through snow above her knees. She came back upstairs with it, legs covered in snow like fleece and sporting great red splotched cheeks from the cold.
Dennis grabbed that dull, rusty saw with a bloodthirst and gnawed his way through the four stubborn branches, adding sawdust to the pad dust, needles and slush. And sap. Oh bubble bubble, toil and trouble.
And then! The Miracle on Elk Avenue! The damn Cat In The Hat tree's trunk actually settled all the way down into the bottom of the stand! And after doing the annual tilting the tree this way and that according to Maguy's instructions from ten feet away and a face-plant-to-the- floor half hour screw job under the tree , the Who-Villian tree stood firmly and solidly in place, albeit still twisted like the hunchback atop Notre Dame.
We replaced the fake pine hole fillers with the fresh sawed off branches which was brilliant because after we finally put the all lights and ornaments on the dead branches they will probably turn grey tomorrow and drop off and we won't be able to fix it because of all the stuff we swaddled the tree in like a straightjacket.
We still haven't decorated it yet. We're afraid to. Now every time I go into the living room I sneak in on tiptoes expecting to catch it doing something. I trust that tree as far as I can throw it.
Truly this tree would make even a Grinch smile. For after all, like the Grinch says, "maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas ... perhaps ... means a little bit more."