Monday, December 03, 2007

walking into memories

[Preface Note: this post was mostly written on Friday but without all the NaBloPoMo pressure it has languished in draft phase waiting to be finished properly (or at least finished). And while I'm on a tangent, the whole NaBloPoMo thing was fun but hard. And I didn't even win any prizes . . . of course, I never do. But I'm happy I completed the challenge. Here is hoping for a rise in quality, even if the quantity drops off a bit (but not completely, I'm not going anywhere).]

Walking to work yesterday I kept counting the days out in my head in an attempt to make Thursday actually be Friday. I was convinced it should be Friday. I was also convinced that November had run its course and should be over by now. This year we had that really early Thanksgiving that throws everything off course. Thanksgiving is supposed to be the end of the month with a few short November days to pass through before December hits with full force. This year it snuck in kind of early and left an excessive amount of November left to run out dully in a slow plodding shuffle into December.

As the bitter dialogue continued to run on about this rut I call going to work in my head, Ben Folds' The Luckiest began to play and I looked to my left before crossing 9th Avenue. As I did so, I noticed something that brought a smile to my face and a spring to my step as I stepped off the curb:

There are so many things that can drag me down living in New York City at Christmas-time (the crowds, the cold, the crowds and don't forget the cold) that it is easy to forget or ignore the fabulous little wonders that bring an unintended smile. The annual appearance of this Christmas tree display and the proprieter's rusted old vanagon is one.

A couple of Christmases ago, after I had been back in the City about six months, I decided to buy a Christmas tree. I had clearly forgotten the lessons I learned from having a tree the previous year - infestation of pine needles that became permanently lodged in my vacuum (the one I threw out just a few weeks ago) - and was simply mesmerized by the smell. The pungent aroma of nature inserted into the center of the concrete jungle is hypnotic, especially when this particular nature smell means Christmas. The intoxicating scent made me forgot the part of the Christmas tree saga where my brother and I had to hoist it off the balcony onto the driveway after repeated sticks by dry, brittle needles and a sticky sapping from the trunk. After the first week after we brought that tree home it began dropping a million needles the instant anyone looked in its direction. Instead I conjured up the memory of my sister and I roaming the Christmas tree lot at Fred Myer's lot on 4th South in Salt Lake carefully inspecting and examining each tree as we sipped our complimentary hot cider. The enticing aroma covered the memory of hours and hours of fruitless vacuuming that stretched out over six months and still never collected all the needles with the joy and excitement of selecting lights and ornaments with my sister at Target and gleefully decorating our tree as snow softly fell outside. The piney scent brings a smile to my lips as I laugh inside at the memory of us tying that tree to the top of my Subaru on our own and maneuvering it up the damp steps to our living room where we quickly rearranged the furniture so the tree could be proudly displayed in the floor to ceiling window facing the street. And the smell itself. I craved the smell of fresh pine in my home.

So one Saturday night I got dressed in an outfit suitable for hauling a tree home and hiked up the two cross-town blocks to the tree lot where I first purchased a Christmas tree in New York. I remember that first little tree I purchased in 2001 when I had no concept of how one went about negotiating the logistics of acquiring and putting up a tree in Manhattan. I had passed several displays of trees crowding the sidewalks and didn't know how to choose other than by going to the one that was closest. I was fascinated by the process: after picking a tree, the tree man sent my short and stout little pine through a machine that I initially feared was a chipper of some sort but out came my tree, slim and trim fully encased in netting. I was still a bit concerned as to how I would lug this thing home - as small as it was - so the tree man gave me a brief tutorial on how to carry a Christmas tree through the streets of Manhattan (reach your hand down through the branches somewhere in the middle of the tree and grab the trunk - this works best with gloves).

But two years ago, when I returned to that same tree-lined sidewalk I was prepared and I discovered something else to enjoy - the Québécois proprieter of the little lot. He was cute and funny and flirty and I wish I could remember the entire interchange. . . I don't think he asked me out directly but he may have invited himself to deliver my tree personally or out for coffee or something. At the time I was caught up in the tree - and his accent - and it wasn't until later when I replayed the dialogue in my head that I realized he was trying to ask me out. He and the other tree guy come down from Canada each December and live in that old VW bus parked next to the trees on 9th Avenue.

I am not planning on buying a tree this year (takes up too much space, is a hassle to wrestle it home, don't really want to vacuum it up off the floor, etc.) but I know I will find myself walking through this little grove of Christmas trees several times a week breathing deeply and keeping an eye out for my tree guy. And when I see him, I will buy some pine boughs to bring the scent home with me and give myself another opportunity to flirt with the tree guy.


lizzie said...

very fun memories. thanks for sharing!

michele said...

dan loved the picture of the van. me too.

Tiffany said...

I can't believe I missed this post! After having seen the cute French-Canadian tree lot owner, I can verify that you were not exaggerating in the least.

Fun Christmas memories!

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