We call him Junior. Is it strange to name a tree? Ricardo and I share a proclivity for naming inanimate objects.
Sunday afternoon, we cruise the stretch of highway and wooded back roads, flanked by green mountains, to the Christmas tree farm in Issaquah. We're quiet, absorbed in the crisp beauty of a late afternoon in December, and then we both chuckle as car after car zips by us in the opposite direction, flashes of red or evergreen or silver with netted trees strapped on the top like a unicorn's horn. Neither of us had experienced cutting down a tree for Christmas.
I'm prepared for once in my life, all layers: sweater, fleece jacket, rain jacket, gloves, boots. I'm not about to let the cold deter me from the thrill of hunting for a tree. Ricardo grabs a saw, I snag a laminated map and make an immediate beeline for the free hot cocoa. Then we start our tour of the farm, circling through the little trees with discounted tags, then the Grand Firs, the Noble Firs, the Douglas Firs. The trees with orange tags are marked down, and we quickly see it's because they have chunks of limbs missing, or look arthritic, or have an unseemly distribution of branches and needles. In other words, they're not beautiful. We take our time, sniff the air to catch the trees' perfume, marvel at the blue sky and the sun quickly fading behind the mountains. And then, we make our way back to where we started.
On first glance, these little Noble Firs for $15 seemed perfect. However, on second inspection, we see the needles are yellowing. We touch the branches of a few and the needles float down to join the dirt. Yet we're determined, not unlike shopping at Goodwill - sometimes, you just gotta hunker down and search - to find a treasure.
"How about this one?" Ricardo asks. We've already looked at this little guy, but I strain to look closer. Can we live with some of his dry branches? He's short and squatty, not at all elegant, but his branches are full. We look at each other, and a smile passes between our eyes.
It takes all of ten back-and-forths of the saw to cut him down, interrupted by our videos of each other having a go at it, laughing at the spectacle. Ricardo snaps a picture of me hugging our tree. It looks like we snapped off the top two feet of a fat Noble and are running off with it.
"Should we net him?" I ask. I want to see him strapped to the top of my car, but in the end, he sits in the backseat like a chubby child surrounded by green crumbs.
At Ricardo's apartment, Junior sits in a metal vase we bought at Goodwill, decked out in white lights and a mish-mash of ornaments. We turn off the lights, sit back on the sofa, and admire him in all his squatty glory.
It's like Linus said in A Charlie Brown Christmas: "It's not a bad little tree. All it needs is a little love."