"What makes Christmas feel this way?" sighed my 12-year-old son.
"What do you mean?" I asked defensively, recoiling from the sting of his bare-knuckled reminder of my half-hearted holiday homemaking.
"I mean, it feels all warm and cozy. What do you think it is?"
Relieved that I hadn't yet robbed him of his innocent wonder and awe, I smiled.
"Is it the tree?" he pressed.
With specific instructions, I had sent my 12-year-old and my husband out to cut down a cedar tree I had determined to be THE one. Before they left, I reminded them, "It's down by the creek in the dip to the left of the road once you cross over the bridge and start into the curve." I gave its detailed description -- thick, greenest green, 12 feet tall, fat in the middle, tapering to the top. "Make sure you cut down the right one," I insisted.
My exasperated husband held up his hand. "We've got this."
"Okay, but ..."
"I said, we've got this," he stopped me. "We can bring home a tree."
Bringing home A tree is far different from bringing home THE tree.
According to my son, they went directly to the tree located in the dip to the left of the road after crossing the bridge as they entered the curve. But his daddy never slowed down. He shifted gears and blew past it like Santa breezing past kids on the naughty list.
But THE tree, my tree, was nice. It was darn near perfect, at least as far as I could tell from looking at it through the car window from the road.
Passing THE tree, they drove out into the nether regions of the county, farther and farther. My lad's palms sweated. Suddenly, unwillingly, he was an accomplice in crossing his own mother at Christmas. When my husband eased the truck over to the shoulder of the road and put it in park, our son nervously asked, "What are we doing here?"
"That's our tree," his father replied, nodding.
"Where?" he squinted, looking as hard as he could for a deep-green, thick cedar, fat in the middle and tapering to the top.
His daddy pointed. "Right over there at the edge of the woods."
The child's gut felt like he had swallowed a lump of coal, which he knew for sure St. Nick would bring him now. When he opened his mouth to clarify with his father about the tree in the dip on the left after crossing the bridge and entering the curve, a chainsaw revved and whined and whimpered and went silent.
Whoosh. The kill landed in the truck bed. My son ran his fingers nervously over his lips, thinking, "That's a bush. Mama will know it's not the tree from the dip on the left side of the road after crossing the bridge and entering the curve."
As soon as they returned home, my husband went to work and installed his harvest in the living room and bound up its branches in colored lights. Stepping back, he looked at his reluctant co-conspirator and said, "Your mother is going to kill us."
But it's just not Christmas without cussing and a fight. And folks in my family even agree that it's traditional scenes like what transpired between my husband, me, and the Christmas bush that create timeless memories in the mind of a child.
Yes, my dear, I think it is the tree that makes Christmas feel this way.
Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson. E-mail Lucy at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her Web site, www.IfMama.com.