By Karen Topakian
Every year my mother wanted a nice Christmas tree. Because my father chased the elusive good deal, he picked the wrong tree, repeatedly.
My mother pressed the heel of her hands on the edge of the kitchen sink as she peered through the snow-streaked window looking for signs of my father’s car. She spied him turning into the driveway, with her eyes squinted, she hoped she would see a Christmas tree. Without a tree, it hadn’t felt like Christmas yet.
My mother audibly sighed in relief as she watched him wrestle the evergreen from the back of the station wagon. And drag it over the snowy driveway, through the kitchen and the hallway into the living room.
“Here’s your tree, Alice,” exclaimed my father proudly.
My mother stood with her hands on her hips in the living room doorway inspecting his purchase.
“I got a good deal.”
“Another good deal. Remember the last one?”
“But this one has only has one bad side.”
“Can you turn it around?”
He tossed his icy gloves on the floor, twirled the tree while watching my mother’s face.
She pointed to the short branches, barely long enough to hold an ornament. To the sparse amount of branches, leaving big spaces between the boughs. And to the trees thin frame.
“Only one bad side? I see four.”
He turned it again, this time looking at the tree.
“Alice, I swear, at the lot it only had one bad side.”
My mother walked back into the kitchen shaking her head.
“I think it’s raining,” announced my mother during dinner one night in December.
My father looked out the kitchen window. “I don’t see any rain coming down.”
“I hear something that sounds like rain.”
“I don’t hear anything.”
My sister, Gail, and I ate our spaghetti and meatballs in silence until my mother corrected me for slurping.
When we finished eating, Gail and I asked if we could turn the lights on the Christmas tree. My mother agreed. We ran into the living room.
“Mom, come quick,” we called in unison as we stood in front of the tree.
My mother hurried out of the kitchen, “What’s all the yelling about?”
As she approached the living room, the ‘rain’ she heard grew louder.
“Armen, Come. Look.”
My father strode in from his chair in the den.
“Now do you hear it?” asked my mother as she pointed to the needles cascading onto the wrapped packages under the Christmas tree. “Another one of your great tree deals.”
“But I was right. It wasn’t raining,” responded my father sheepishly.
“Armen can you straighten the tree?” my mother asked my father one evening after work.
My father reached through the decorated branches to give a tug.
He looked over to my mother for her approval.
Pleased with himself, he walked back into the den.
The day before Christmas, my mother again noticed the treeing leaning in a different direction.
That night, she told my father she was worried that the tree might fall over.
“It’s not going to fall over,” declared my father as he tugged on a branch.
The tree shifted.
He dropped down to all fours, brusquely moved some wrapped packages out of the way and inspected the tree at its base.
“The guy at the lot didn’t cut the bottom straight.”
“Would a tree with a straight cut have cost more?” she queried while rolling her eyes.
“Get the girls to hold the tree.”
My sister and I wrapped our small hands around the lower tree trunk while my mother grasped it tightly higher up. My father sprawled out on the floor, carefully unscrewed the bolts holding the tree upright jostled the tree into place and retightened the screws.
When he gave the all clear, we stepped away.
“Much better,” applauded my mother.
My father stood up, brushed off his hands, pleased with himself.
After everyone went to bed on Christmas eve, my mother hung our stockings and admired her handiwork one more time.
But the tree seemed to tip again, in a different direction than it had before. She attributed it to her blurry tired eyes, turned off the lights and climbed into bed.
She arose first on Christmas morning, donned her bathrobe, padded into the living room cast her eyes toward the tree and let out a shriek. My sister, father and I jumped out of our beds and ran into the living room.
There lay our fully decorated tree face down on the carpet, across the perfectly wrapped presents. Ornaments, tinsel and lights splayed out on the living room floor.
My mother covered her face in her hands and groaned.
“That’s it, no more bargain Christmas trees,” announced my father as we struggled together to right the tree.
And my father kept that promise. Until the next year.