If there is an awkward, complicated way of accomplishing an easy task, the Ferguson family has found it. At Christmas, this means leaving buying a tree until very late and then refusing to bring the car out to transport it home. And of course refusing to buy one close by, because they can be found more cheaply further away.
This year was no different. Given that it’s only four days until Christmas, today seemed like the appropriate time to acquire a tree.
“Dad, we should get a tree”, I said stuffing a potato waffle into my mouth.
“Righteo. Let’s go”
“What, now? I’m eating!”
“We’ll leave in five.”
Grabbing my coat and boots, I found my dad at the door.
“I’m cycling. Will you accompany me?”
“Nyee… No.I’m wearing a skirt.. and these boots aren’t suitable. You can wheel your bike there and then we’ll carry the tree on it in on the way home.”
He seemed to be okay with this.
Until we were making our way down the canal and he cycled off, leaving me trotting behind, fuming, resentful and futile. I chased him all the way around Harold’s Cross but we found none of the usual haunts open for business.
Dejected, we parted. I dared him to return home without a Christmas tree.
Sure enough, an hour later, I heard the gate creak open and caught a glimpse of my father’s head bopping between a mass of bushy branches.
We argued about the best way to fit the tree through the door. He heaved it all the way into the dining room, where he dumped it unceremoniously against the bookcase. “Got it in Crumlin”, he boasted before announcing he had to dash out again.
Alone now, I took a look at the specimen before me. An absolute beauty. Totally symetrical, full-bodied and tall, with a well-endowed base. This was the Beyoncé of all trees. My Papsi had done well.
The rest of my day went something like this:
I went to the garden and found a large green pot full of earth but without signs of vegetation. Armed with an enourous spade, I emptied it out and marvelled at the reflexive movements of the pinkish-blue worms which resembled varicose veins. Then I boiled several kettles of water and washed it down. My favourite part of the day happened next.
While I returned to the kitchen, I left the pot on the grass. I’d poured in some boiling water and a little cloud of steam was rising from it. When I came back, I found a robin perched at the edge of the pot, with its little red breast all puffed up and its head errect, enjoying a sauna.
I spent a long time cleaning that pot and making the acquaintance of a number of worms, who didn’t seem to want to engage in small talk with me and even, on a few occasions, phsyically recoiled with fear.
When I had finally finished, I brought the pot inside, and lined it with a collonade of bricks, which we happen to keep in our garden.
I took a firm hold of the tree and lugged it over to the window. Employing every ounce of strength my small and under-exercised frame would allow, I lifted it up and tried to jam it into the pot. It didn’t fit.
I breathed in deeply, turned on Mooney Goes Wild and relined my pot. This time it slipped in seemlessly, and, while it is now stable, it leans slightly to the left, which is a position I can identify with.
I was so happy alone in the house today, carrying one box of German Christmas decorations after the other up the stairs and unpacking it all to find it all just as I had packed it away last year. I whiled away six or seven hours dressing my full-bodied, left-leaning tree from Crumlin.
My heart did a little skip when I found my favourite decoration again. It is a little baby (probably Jesus) wrapped in a pink blanket, sleeping inside a walnut shell.
I am incredibly attached to the walnut baby. I would dispense with all our straw stars, our wooden horses, our glass presents and our golden baubles just to save this little one. It’s so simple, so lovely, so constant.
I hung it up on a protected branch near the top of the tree and this evening, in my armchair sipping a glass of spiced apple wine, I watched it swing slightly under a white light and thought that the best moment of Christmas was passing before my eyes.