----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ ----------------------------------------------- */ The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire: O Christmas Tree

The Fabulous Adventures of Astera: Writer/Actress for Hire

Meet Astera (aka: me), a star in her own mind. Our plucky little heroine has embarked on not one but two difficult, low-paying career paths: writing and acting. Witness the menial jobs! The unreasonable demands! The quirky friends and family! And the glimmer of success just ahead! Through it all, Astera maintains her core beliefs: 1) She is destined to be fabulous 2) Everything is more fun with a cocktail.

Friday, December 17, 2004

O Christmas Tree

A couple of nights ago, my husband and I put a crackly log on the fire, drank Snugglers (hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps...yum), listened to Christmas carols, and decorated our Christmas tree. (Side note: "husband" seems like an awfully grown-up word. So does "wife." I don't feel that old yet!)

Anyway, as we decorated, I thought about how exciting it used to be to go pick out a Christmas tree. When my brothers and I were little, my family would all pile into the Chevrolet Caprice Classic station wagon (it's as big as a whale!) and head on out to the Christmas tree farm. It always seemed like such a long drive, but I think we only went to Petaluma. Chris and I would sit in the "way, way back" and make faces at the cars behind us. Once there, we'd clamber out of Big Blue, and Chris would run off with my dad to pick out the saw. I'd usually head for the free candy canes. Nick would toddle around looking at the "aminals"--they had sheep and some chickens, I think. My mom would have some hot cider and look at all the Christmas crafts for sale.

Once we had the serrated blade on a stick, we'd tromp off through what I thought was wilderness, but what I now realize were neat, carefully planted rows of Douglas firs and blue spruces. I never understood why the saw had to be so big. Maybe it just seemed tall to my 11-year-old eyes, but I remember it coming up to my dad's chin. Of course, he's not a very tall man. We'd roam around looking for that perfect tree. This one was too tall; that one was too sparse. Finally, as we kids were starting to get cranky, we'd find it--the perfect specimen. It would be full and lovely and fragrant, and we would chop it down! My dad would do most of the sawing, but Chris and I would get to place our hands ceremoniously on the stick. Nick was too little. My mom would be much occupied by taking pictures at this point. In fact, I think the three of us kids standing triumphantly by the tree we were about to cut down was a shot that made it into at least one Christmas card. Once the tree had been felled, we would load it up onto a cart and drag it back to the entrance, where it would be wrapped in netting. Chris always pushed for flocking, but my parents only gave in once. It was too messy and too expensive, they said. I think Chris just liked saying "flock." After much grunting and muttering, my dad would get the tree tied to the roof of the car, and we'd be on our way home, hands sticky with tree sap and candy-cane residue.

How things have changed. As an adult, my experience picking out trees has been very different. The first year I lived in L.A. after finishing grad school, Sarah and I decided to get a tree for our apartment. We set off in my car and drove by a number of skeezy-looking lots before we came to one that was run by Boy Scouts. There were no acres of wilderness to roam here--trees were simply propped up willy-nilly. We found a good-looking tree in about 10 minutes flat. Then we realized that we had no aptitude for tying a tree to the roof of my car. Luckily, the Boy Scouts were there to help. They put the tree in a van, and then a den mother drove two of them to our house to drag the tree up our stairs and set it up in our apartment. I remember that these diffident, pubescent boys seemed inordinately frightened by me and Sarah. Perhaps they thought we would try to tempt them with Christmas cookies and then lure them into our lair and have our way with them. Please. I did have a tendency to date younger men, but not that young.

My next few tree-hunting experiences in L.A. were much the same--find a nearby lot, pick a tree quickly, have some strapping young man tie it to the roof of my car and drive very carefully back home. The trees were usually more than half dead by the time I got them, and by the time it was time to undecorate the tree and put it to rest, there were more needles on the floor than on the branches.

I thought that maybe now that I was married, we'd go and cut our own tree again and restart that beloved tradition. What I had forgotten is that Greg really isn't a big fan of Christmas. I think it's because he comes from a broken home. He agreed to get a tree with me only grudgingly, and when I told him that Target usually had good prices, he said, "Let's go there." So, we piled into my Toyota Camry (it's as big as a baby narwhal!) and drove two exits down the freeway to Target. Our condo is small, so Greg said we could only get a five- or six-foot tree. Target's selection was quite limited and picked over. There were only about 10 trees in that height range. Greg picked up a few, turning them this way and that, before saying, "This one looks good." And it did look good. The thrill of the hunt was gone, but it was a perfectly nice tree. Just 20 minutes later, we were on the freeway headed back home.

Although picking out a Christmas tree doesn't have the mystique it once did, I still love to decorate for Christmas. And maybe once we have kids, Greg will relent and drive us all up to the Christmas tree farm to let us cut down our very own fresh, Christmassy-scented tree. But that's a ways off. And besides, once the tree is glittering with ornaments and twinkling with lights, it's beautiful no matter where it came from.


  • At 4:39 PM, Blogger Vestal Vespa said…

    Hi, Astera-
    I just read that you got fired for your blog (on mediabistro) . . . I'm a writer and write a pretty scathing political blog, but my professional field is not in politics( yet). How come they fired you? Did they really say it was because of your blog? I'm kind of blown away and scared by the whole thing . . .


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