The Christmas Challenge© copyright 2011 Linda Boltman
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the
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The Copper Box
The Valet of Darkshire Manor
THE CHRISTMAS CHALLENGE
The winter after my divorce, I decided my children and I needed a new start by
establishing our own special family Christmas tradition. I conjured up images of my
Grandpa Shorty taking me along out on the farm with him to cut down a Christmas tree
and carry it home. It was magic. There is nothing more wonderful than the smell of a
fresh cut tree. That wonderful pine smell seems to linger long after the tree has fulfilled its
I decided to recreate this magic as closely as I could with a yearly trip to the Christmas tree
farm. The day after Thanksgiving, my two children and I would go to the local Christmas
tree farm and choose a live tree. We would tramp all over acres of pines in the crisp, fall
air in order to find the perfect tree. Certain trees called to us, whispering in our ears that
they were the perfect tree. We would decorate our tree with ribbons and bows and make
sure our name tag was prominently displayed so no one would take our tree. A week or so
before Christmas, we would go back to the farm, chop down the tree, drag it back to the
car and carry it home. Not exactly a replica of grandpa’s Midwest tree expedition, but as
close as we could come in San Diego. Over the years it became our own special family
tradition and the children looked forward to it.
However, somehow over time, this family tradition became a yearly challenge for me.
When I picked out the perfect Christmas tree, I somehow always chose the biggest tree in
the forest. It quickly became apparent that I had absolutely no concept of size when it
came to choosing a Christmas tree. I’m not sure why that was. Looking back, I have a
hunch the origins of this shortcoming occurred in my early youth. I was between the ages
of six and ten when Grandpa and I went out to cut down the tree and at that age, every
tree looks huge. I look back on photos of a five-year-old blonde in her little holiday dress
standing next to her Grandfather and the tree they chose, and the tree probably isn’t over
five feet tall. To me, it seemed gigantic.
This character flaw became the butt of many jokes with friends and family. I explain to
everyone it’s as though a particular tree calls to us. Perhaps this is the same calling I
heard when I chose my 135-pound dog from the pound…no one else wanted something
that big. Whatever the reason, we’d stomp all over the Christmas tree farm, ultimately find
the perfect tree, tag it with bows and ribbons to make it special and then impatiently wait
until mid-December to go back and cut it down and carry it home. The return trip was
always a surprise.
I suppose when I say “carry it home”, that’s too Norman Rockwell. We didn’t exactly carry
our tree home very often. Each time we went back two weeks later, the tree seemed to
have grown at least three feet since we had picked it out. Several times I had to be
convinced by the manager that the remaining monster tree standing alone in the field,
bedecked with familiar bows and ribbons was, indeed, the tree I had chosen. I was certain
someone had changed ribbons with me.
As the years went by and the children grew, the trees we chose got taller and wider. I
began to get a reputation. Friends would congregate at my house waiting for the unveiling
of another monstrous Christmas tree. Each year I would attempt to convince them that I
had bought one much more practical than last year, but each year we stood the tree
upright, we had to move it further up the cathedral ceiling in order to make it fit. Ultimately,
it didn’t even show up in the living room window.
My daughter still reminds me of the Christmas I almost killed her. That was the first year
the tree farm told me that a normal Christmas tree stand would no longer do. They
suggested that I use a special base of 2 X 4’s to hold the tree in place and were even so
kind as to construct one for me. At this point we were on a first-name basis. My children
were in high school and old enough to be of assistance. My son cut three feet off the tree
so that it would fit in front of the living room window and between the three of us struggling,
pushing and shoving, we got the tree carried into the house. We had to take a breather.
Twenty minutes later, with a great deal of huffing and puffing, we set the tree upright and
into place on the specially constructed wood base. My daughter sat down on the sofa in
exhaustion and my son and I stepped back to admire our tree. It was about that time that
the tree started to gently sway under its own weight. Moments later, the tree fell on my
daughter. I was sure I’d killed her under the weight of a 13-foot Christmas tree. Luckily,
the sofa took the brunt of the weight and my daughter lived to see another Christmas. But
we had to hold the tree in place with guide wires attached to the ceiling to avoid any further
threat to life and limb.
Perhaps our most notorious was the year of the “mother lode” tree. Friends still talk about
that year. We had chosen a tree that just seemed to stand out from all the rest. It was
magnificent. When we went back a few weeks later to cut it down, I had a sinking feeling
that perhaps this tree was much bigger than I first thought. It was. The trunk was so large
that it took my college-aged son and two men to cut it down. I was sure that SDG&E was
ready to tag it for future use as a telephone pole.
There was no carrying it back to the car like Grandpa had dragged our tree through the
snow. A tractor and trailer had to be brought in to haul my tree to the car! Adding to the
embarrassment, I had to call my ex-husband to come over with his SUV because it
wouldn’t fit on my little Honda. It took seven men to load it on top of his car roof. I
watched the SUV’s tires sag under its weight. When we got it home, we could only roll it
off the roof and into the front yard.
Ok, so now how am I going to get it into the house? We decided to hold a “Christmas Tree
Party” to get the tree in the front door. I invited all my friends, luring them over with
promises of eggnog and dinner. This tree was so big that we had to move all the furniture
out of the living room and the entry into the family room in order to get the tree in the front
door and around the corner. It took four men and three women to get our chosen prize in
the house, into the living room and standing in place. The moment the netting was cut and
the branches sprang to life, you could no longer see the fireplace or the library shelves on
the right side. Only one sofa was visible. It almost filled the entire fourteen-foot wide living
room. We had to go back twice to the drug store for more strings of lights. Neighborhood
children would knock on my door asking to see “the tree”. People and neighbors still talk
That did it. After bringing home Christmas trees year after year that took a multitude of
men to carry in the front door, that left marks on my cathedral ceiling when pulled it into
place and that had to be held with guide wires, I was ordered by family and friends to use
my 6’4” son as a measuring tape. David was instructed to raise his hand above his head
at the tree farm. If the tree was taller than his hand, it was not a candidate to come home
with us for the holidays. It quickly became apparent this may take some training, since the
following Christmas, apparently David was standing uphill when he raised is hand,
because we still somehow wound up with a thirteen foot Christmas tree.
The October following the thirteen-foot tree, most of my neighborhood was lost in the San
Diego Witch Creek fire, including the two homes next to mine. My home suffered severe
smoke damage, so I lived with my mom and dad for eight weeks. I was able to get back
into my home the day before Christmas, too late for a tree. I was thrilled to be home, but it
just wasn’t’ Christmas without a tree. I sulked all day while making trips back and forth,
moving my things back home. The house seemed empty and void of the Christmas spirit
without a majestic tree to light up the house. On my last trip back to my house that
evening, I walked in the front door to the most heartwarming and beautiful sight I could
imagine. My eyes still well up in memory of it. My ex-husband and daughter were busy
putting the finishing touches on the artificial tree he’d brought over from his house to
surprise me. Only six feet tall, it seemed miniscule compared to its predecessors, but to
me it looked magnificent!. I had a tree and I was back home just in time for Christmas.
This was going to be a wonderful Christmas.
This year will present the greatest challenge ever. This year’s tree has to be very special.
I lost my beloved Mom and Christmas without her is going to be difficult. I need an
extraordinary tree to carry me through the holidays. More than ever, when we traipse
through the Christmas tree farm, this tree needs to stand out from all the rest.
My “measuring tape” has graduated from college and is ready to do his Christmas duty.
My daughter is prepared to readily defend herself from trees foreign and domestic. And
me? I have the love and support of an incredible family, so I think I’m going to be alright
this holiday season.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Linda Boltman’s psychological thriller, Man in the Moon by Jigsaw Press is available
online in eBook form at Smashwords and in both paperback and eBook at Barnes & Noble
and Amazon.com. Her short story, The Captive was selected by San Diego Writer's Ink
Anthology, Vol 4 as one of San Diego's finest writers. Linda has had her stories and
poetry published numerous times in Adventures for the Average Woman in both their
magazine and ezine editions in the United States and England. Her stories have
appeared in Tough Lit Magazine, GreenPrints, Grand Magazine and The San Diego
Reader. Look for The Copper Box, Lover’s Leap, The Captive, Moon Pies, Plum Loco,
The Valet of Darkshire Manor and other eBooks by Linda on Smashwords.com.