«Why don’t you choose one and I’ll come and cut it down later with the chainsaw?» he said in answer to my question about finding a Christmas tree. I knew he was only joking but I threw him a dirty look anyway. We have the same conversation every year when it comes to finding a tree and his selective memory every mid-December never fails to dismay me.
When I lived in the UK, choosing a tree had been a simple matter of going to the garden centre and picking out one that had been pre-cut and wrapped. It was usually a plump spruce that had small needles and branches on all four sides. An average shaped tree that despite its averageness was nonetheless symmetrical.
Here in France however, tradition in my husband’s family has it that our Christmas tree should be selected from amongst the thousands of pine trees growing in wild abundance on the farm. He would never hear of us buying a tree when we were surrounded by so many. Unfortunately, although they possess a certain rustic charm, these pine trees do not have the advantages of the typical Christmas tree. The needles aren’t flat, but encircle the whole branch like bicycle spokes, making it difficult to hang the decorations with their tiny, spruce intended loops. More importantly, the harshness of the winters and the strength of the Mistral, ensure that all the trees, without exception, are missing branches on their northern side.
When we moved in together, my husband went to choose and cut down our first Christmas tree by himself. We obviously did not share the same idea of symmetry, because although it fitted very snugly against the wall, a semi-circle tree was not what I had in mind. Looking back, I suppose that I couldn’t have been very diplomatic when I pointed out the glaring lack of branches on one side.
Now, every year, when I ask him to come with us to choose a tree he delights in reminding me of the conversation we had all that time ago. I plead and cajole and tell him how wonderful he is and finally he’ll go and fetch the saw and follow us up behind the farm into the woods. I do feel a bit guilty about sweet talking him into coming with us every year; but only a bit. Someone’s got to carry the tree back after all.