Christmas Tree

Christmas tree: (n) a decorated tree at Yuletide

“If you want a tree, go get it yourself.”

That’s what my dad said when I was fourteen years old and asked him why we had not put up our tree as of yet, at Christmastime.

Normally the practice was to pick a tree and decorate it on my birthday–one week before Christmas. But for some reason, December 20th had rolled around and nobody had even mentioned getting one.

I was offended, disrupted, angry, bewildered, uncertain, out-of-spirits and generally and profoundly rebellious, in the most adolescent way possible.

So I complained. That’s what I knew how to do.

Since I had asked at least a half a dozen times about the tree, I felt it was time for me to object. he option provided for me by my dad was to go get a tree myself.

This was plausible because our family owned a little farm outside the town, where we grew some Christmas trees. So I had my brother drive me out to the location, grabbed a little hatchet and headed off through the snowy ground to bag myself an evergreen.

With my chubby legs and being severely out of shape, I was completely exhausted from the walk to the pines–ready to give up on my mission. After all, it wasn’t my fault. I was not in charge. If the damn family didn’t want a tree, then we should be treeless.

But the problem was, that included me–and I didn’t want to be treeless.

So braving the cold, little hatchet in hand, I found what I thought would be a good tree and began to whack at the trunk.

My hatchet had obviously been purchased by Davy Crockett when he went to the Alamo and not sharpened since. The first three strikes at the tree trunk didn’t even split the bark. So as not to bore you, I will shorten this story by telling you that an hour later, sweat pouring off my face, I finally got the tree to give up its roots and prepare to move to my home.

The trunk was an absolute mess. It was not a cut, but rather a massacre. But I drug it out, my brother and I put it on top of the car, and we drove it to the house. He kindly helped me saw the bottom off to make it even so we could put it into the Christmas tree stand. To add insult to my effort, it ended up being too tall. We had to cut off part of the top.

But eventually it sat in our living room, waiting to be adorned.

That evening when my father returned from working at his loan company, he stepped into the house, looked at the tree, and said to me, “Is that the best tree you could get?”

I didn’t respond to him directly, but in my mind I thought, “Yes. It’s the best tree I could get. Because this year it’s my tree.”



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Chicken Pox

Chicken pox: (n) an infectious disease causing a mild fever and a rash of itchy inflamed blisters

The conventional wisdom of one generation is often the horror of horrors to the next.

When I was a young boy, I contracted chicken pox. I will not say it was a pleasant experience, but when you factor in the attention, ice cream
and time off from school, it balanced nicely.

But the true oddity of the whole event was how the mothers of my friends brought their children to our house and made them play with me, so the kids would all get chicken pox at once–and then it would be over.

It sounds almost medieval. But in their simple way, they realized that keeping the chicken pox alive for months and months, with each child having his day in the sun–or out of the sun, in this case–would be truly agonizing.

So in a sense, what was created was a chicken pox party.

Here were the positive aspects:

  • All the kids could play together.
  • All the kids could benefit from the treats together.
  • And all of the kids could miss school at the same time, so they could study and literally do their homework at home.

It was a simple solution from a simple people who had not yet benefitted from all the vaccinations.

And by the way, had not decided to argue about the value of vaccinations.


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Chicken: (n) a domestic fowl kept for its eggs or meat

Thirteen cents less a pound.

As a boy, my father found out that he could buy chickens that were alive cheaper than he could buy them in the store. For some reason, he thought this was a good idea.

Now, it’s not like we lived on a farm–it was just a residential street with a small garage.

My father came home with four chickens in their little wooden, slatted pens. The first thing that struck me about the chickens was how damned noisy they were

But even though I believed these creatures were not terribly intelligent, they had some sort of sensibility, realizing they were not traveling out in their crates to visit the Lincoln Memorial. A certain doom invaded their screams–or were they clucks? Actually, it was somewhere between a cluck and a scream.

I was seven years old. My father requested I go and bring him an axe.

I will pause here for a second to remind you that we are standing in a Middle America garage and my father is ill-prepared. He has not figured out how to grab the chicken, put it down on a wooden box, take his hatchet and behead the squawker.

He discovers that he doesn’t have enough hands. After all, he needs one hand for the hatchet and the other for the chicken–which is more than a handful. So he turns to me and says, “Son, come here and hold the chicken’s neck down so I can chop it.”

There were so many things in that command that disturbed me that I wouldn’t know where to start.

I froze.

This made my father angry–mainly because the chicken was beginning to get the better of him, and its claws were reaching up, ripping into his flesh. After being yelled at two additional times, I finally made my way over and placed my small hand around the chicken’s neck.

The poor fowl bastard turned and looked at me.

My dad brought the hatchet down and I found myself holding the head of a chicken as the body flopped all over the garage, spurting blood and spewing feathers in every direction.

We repeated the process three more times.

I never got better at it–nor did my dad.

At the end of the experience, we had a garage covered in blood and feathers, and four chicken carcasses stacked on top of each other, twitching and wiggling.

My dad also failed to realize that after chopping off the heads, there was the process of removing feathers, feet, chicken butts and any number of unnecessary parts that don’t fry up well.

The butchering only happened once.

After that, my dad decided that paying a thirteen-cent-a-pound surcharge for “completed” birds was much more pleasant.




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