It is the holiday season, which means that by the time you read this I will have committed murder. My victim will be a tree, one that has never caused me harm or insulted me in any way. A completely innocent tree. Yet with the help of my wife and children, I will have taken my hacksaw and cut it down at the base, bringing on a slow and lingering death that I will endeavor to draw out for close to a month.
For years I have done this, and for years I have been besieged with guilt. Who am I to take the life of another carbon-based life-form? And I won’t just take a tree’s life, I’ll take its dignity as well. As soon as I’ve cut it down, I’ll truss it up, tie it to the roof of my car, bring it home, and cover it with hot electric lights and a series of decorations ranging from the sentimental to the artistic to the downright tacky. When the holidays are over, I’ll finally put the poor thing out of its misery and toss it to the curb, a shameful end to what had once been a living being.
Next year I will kill again, and again I will be overrun with guilt.
What kind of lesson am I teaching my children when they watch me take the life of another while singing Band Aid under my breath (“Well tonight, thank God it’s them, instead of youuuuuuuuu!”) How can this be socially acceptable? How can I do this year after year?
Here in the Rivertowns we love our Christmas trees as much as anywhere else in America, and the instant the turkey is digested on Thanksgiving Day, flatbeds lined with the corpses of once-proud conifers magically arrive from the north. They deposit their charges in front of Stop & Shop, C-Town and Home Depot as well as in numerous empty lots and within the yards of nearly every church in the area so that we can walk amongst them and select which one we want to watch drop its needles in front of our eyes while we snuggle in front of the fireplace.
Being especially brutal and cruel, the River Family likes to venture north to where Christmas trees can be found living wild and free (usually Putnam County). We then stalk them mercilessly, subject them to our indecisive arguing, then spring upon them without warning and cut them down right in front of their family. Then we generally have a cup of hot chocolate while hired hands string up our prize, as if we’re game hunters from days of yore relaxing after a particularly grueling safari.
What is it about Christmas and the need for this mass slaughter of evergreens?
Thinking along these lines nearly brought me to the point of embracing the abomination known as the Artificial Christmas Tree. This eco-friendly solution takes the tree out of the Christmas tree and turns it into a
Plastic Tree-Like Item. My grandparents had a Plastic Tree-Like Item in the 1970s, only I never realized it wasn’t a real tree. I always wondered how they managed to find such a perfectly-shaped tree every year, and bowed down to my grandfather’s obvious tree-finding genius. When, as a teenager visiting one summer, I found the pieces of the Plastic Tree-Like Item scattered in their attic like the bones of the dead, I was traumatized.
As this holiday season approached, I was torn between two morally-repugnant choices. I could continue to give in to my serial-killer instincts and live with the remorse or I could join with the devil and buy a Plastic Tree-Like Item. Not having a tree wasn’t even an option, and trying to nurture one of those “living trees” I’ve heard about could only end in disaster.
But then, after seeing my daughter and her friends perform in Lion King Kids at W.I., I had an epiphany.
I am not slaughtering these trees. I am martyring them. They are sacrificing their lives willingly for the betterment of Treekind and will ultimately have their revenge. Step one, I murder a tree. Step two, the tree is thrown to the curb in January, picked up, and dumped somewhere. Step three, it is broken down over hundreds of years, nourishing all sorts of maggots and bacteria which then become fertile breeding grounds for pandemic diseases. Step Four, my descendents catch these diseases and are wiped off the face of the Earth. Without mankind around to muck things up, trees grow in peace and tranquility, bringing on Step Five: The Golden Age of Trees. It’s the Circle of Life.
So I went out and cut a tree down with joy in my heart. Oh sure, there may have been a soft cry coming from the stump as my hacksaw sliced through the bark, but I prefer to think of it not as a cry of horror and agony, but rather as the tree’s way of saying, “Chop all you want, one day my people will wind their roots through your bones!”