I’ll be the first to admit to you, anytime, that I’m not handy. If you need something fixed, I am not your guy. I can go about as far as changing doorknobs. I once replaced an outlet in our house and before I flicked the switch, had shaking visions of explosions, sirens and a caved-in roof. I’m just not handy. I’m at the compete and utter whim of the multitude of contractors out there. Something broken? I don’t have the time, know-how or confidence to fix it. So I do what almost every red-blooded, middle class American does – I embarrassingly throw money at it. Until it’s fixed. It’s honestly not something I’m proud of. It doesn’t help my self-esteem a bit, either. My brother-in-law, it seems, can build, fix, repair and do a lot of other really important stuff. Me? I can probably give you decent advice on hockey sticks, good guidance on music and perhaps hook up your home theater. Now, if a nuclear bomb goes off, you’re gonna want my brother-in-law around. OK? Just want to get that out of the way.
This morning we piled the family in the car and headed off to get our Christmas tree at Durkee Farm in Littleton, MA. We usually just go to a local place, but an already cut tree, have them tie it to the car, then we always drove it home and put it up. By the way, ask my wife sometime about some of the years when I’ve tried to put up trees. You’ll get a laugh, though I must admit the last 1-2 years I’ve shined. My poor wife. Alas, Durkee Farm is a whole different ballgame. It makes men out of boys. They don’t cut the tree for you – oh no no – they just grow ’em. YOU have to cut them. And YOU have to tie it to the car.
So the idea was hatched in our house, on a recommendation from a friend, that we would pile in the family truckster, head to Durkee Farm, cut down our own tree and bring that home. A feeling of victory would fill the air! And so it was that I envisioned a beautiful crisp morning, hats with ear flaps, flannel shirt on, SAW in my hand, the oh-so-familiar holiday scent of fir wafting through the air. Our kids would run around, smiling, laughing, full of Christmas joy, I tell you! My wife and I would walk, snug together in warmth and find the most perfect tree in the world on a beautiful farm. It would be pristine. The day glorious memories are made of. I’d feel like a MAN! Cutting down my OWN TREE, dammit! Like the lion who crushes the life out of a small defenseless animal and drags it home by it’s throat. Durkee Farm, man! Where you feel like Grizzly Adams!
The truth, well, that’s somewhere south of that glory. The whole kids-running-around thing actually happened and was quite cute. Steph and I did in fact walk around pleasantly and we did find a tree that we thought was near-perfect for our house. It WAS actually beautiful and cold out. I didn’t have the ear-flap hat, but I still felt ready, saw in my hand, challenge waiting.
And then I had to cut the tree down.
Here’s the deal. I have some tools at my house. They work very well- the three times a year that I use them. My dad gave me most of them many years ago, maybe when I got my first house. I can’t remember. I can tell you that when it comes to fixing shit, the apple fell VERY far from the tree there, because my dad can fix a LOT of stuff. Anyway, I do have a saw. I’m pretty sure that the only time I’ve used it is when I’ve cut hockey sticks and I remember it wasn’t very good for that purpose. So what EVER made me think it would be enough to cut down a tree?
So there I lay under the tree. Back-and-forth. Zip-zap-zip-zap. The initial cuts were actually ok. Then and there I’m thinking this won’t take too long. But hell, I’ve never cut a tree down. It seems like when I get about 3/4 of an inch in the damn saw just won’t cut anymore. And even though it’s 32 degrees, I’m starting to sweat. No worry. Attack from another angle, I proudly say! You are the predator! Same deal. Now I’ve basically got a tree with half-inch cuts all around – and no budge. Poor Steph. She knows I’m frustrated and all she wants to do is help. She asks the question that no dude wants to hear – “should I get help?” My mind screams “YES! Get help!” But Grizzly in me says no way. I’M gonna do this. But the saw is clearly not the answer, so she goes and gets one from the Durkee folk.
This one works better! But I’m still struggling. I’m asked if I need help. I lay on the ground, dirt all over me, hot, bummed out. I admit yes. Please go get help. She goes off with the boys to bring back someone who knows what the hell they are doing. I lay there and say to myself “what a failure.” I really said that to myself. That is not something I’ve really ever said to myself. I’ve never been afraid to fail, don’t get me wrong. I don’t prefer it, but I do think failure in general (personal, professional, sports, etc) is a very good thing to learn from. But this wasn’t one of those cases. I try again and lo-and-behold – progress. In the next minute, the tree is on the ground. Victory. Not what I envisioned, but victory nonetheless. The man walking with my wife turns and heads back. Damn right dude! Turn that shit around and go back! The kids say “good job Daddy!” I’ve saved face, I guess.
Did I feel like the predatory lion dragging that tree back to the car? A little. I suppose. Now, tying it to the car is another story. I’ve never really tied anything to a car, given my penchant for letting others who know better perform those tasks. But I’ll tell you this much – that tree didn’t budge on the ride home.