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This is the first time I can remember in 100 years when we went to get a Christmas tree and it was easy. We hadn't really picked a time to go get one this year. We usually do it around the first week of December, "around" being a loose term for "when mommy and daddy feel up to it." There have been some years when the snow has been 17 feet high and we can barely make out the tree branches, which are usually stuck together in a circular mess, needles frozen to heaven and other years where it has been so cold that to actually take time to focus on the trees makes your eyes hurt.

I hadn't really been planning on getting it on a Friday afternoon, but golly there was snow in the forecast for Friday night, and really, pushing it out any farther and the kids would be forced to get out their carefully crafted mom and dad voodoo dolls and stick pins, which they save for dire emergencies. They were already calling us Mean Parent Christmas Fun Wreckers. So I called hubby on the phone, pulled him out of work early and we did an impromptu Christmas maneuver at 4:00 pm on a Friday. Why it has taken us this long to figure out that it's easier to get a tree when you can see dirt on the ground is beyond me.

We went to the same lot as last year, but this time we went right into the ritzy section. I know, so unlike us. It was chilly, but no snow and plenty of floofed trees. Last year we picked a tree which made my son cry, and was so frozen solid it was damn lucky for us that it wasn't covered in gaping holes the size of Cleveland.

We steered clear of the Scotch pines which made my arms itch and throat close last year, and we went straight for the Fraser Furs, the luxiest trees in the Christmas tree industry. There they stood all stately and green, with a tint of silver blue shimmer on the backside. My husband went for the 6-7 footers and I said, "Oh no, baby let's go for the 8'."

We are having Christmas again this year, a joyous festive occasion for around 30. We were the laughing stocks 3 years ago, when trying to channel my beloved grandparents ended up with Charlie Brown's tree, which had an uneven branch every three feet and looked like it was crying. My mother even offered to buy us a new one. This year I wasn't taking any chances.

We picked an 8 footer and slapped our $65 bucks on the table. The shock of the expense didn't hit me until later, and even then I was able to deflect some of the guilt onto the new velvet shirt I bought, so the poor tree didn't have to take the full brunt. At the time, though, I just shut myself down and hummed a tune while rocking in the front seat, which works remarkably well, but something you should really practice if it's your first time.

I even contemplated buying a big wreath for the house, but I didn't want to get ahead of myself and blow my carefully crafted calm Christmas demeanor. We got all this done in less than 11 minutes and as we tooled out of the parking lot the snow started to fall. As cars passed us we stuck out our tongues and laughed. Stupid people, they should've planned better.

We got it home and the tree was perfect. Well, perfect from one direction, since the top of the trunk made a curve which we didn't catch upon first inspection. But, the bookcase doesn't have eyes, so really it was perfect. I kept telling husband that my grandparents tree was much fuller up top. Then my mom came over and told me that her mom bought a 10 footer and made my grandpa cut off the top, so it looked fuller.

Why aren't these Christmas secrets told to us sooner?

It should be a rule that upon vacating your parents home you should be debriefed on all the holiday secrets in one setting. Like does Santa wrap gifts or not? 'Cause at our house sometimes he did and sometimes he didn't, which is it? And the rabbit, do you refrigerate the eggs and wake up at 5:00 am so you can still eat them or do you hide them the night before? And on Halloween, how much candy is too much? Till they vomit or 4 pieces? I can't even talk about the cooking secrets without getting weepy. I think I called my mother over 100,000 times to try and figure out how to make an omelet.

I'm thinking there needs to be a book of secrets, bound in leather and tattered with love, passed down from generation to generation. You'd politely ignore the part about chopping wood for the holiday fire and feeding the pigs a tasty slop, but would focus on important things like the tooth fairy usually gives a five-pence and a nice scarf is more than a big gift.

Wouldn't that be funny if Nick Cage did a movie about finding the "Family Holiday Book of Secrets?"

"It must be here somewhere," he would moan in his grovely voice, "it's only a matter of time before we get our hands on it. Hey lets try this fire hole over here." Then his teary-eyed female cohort would chime in, "Oh, only to have had those secrets sooner!" Then they would kiss.

Okay, so it took us three days to get our new perfect tree decorated, because my kids had parties and they fought over the ornaments like alley cats. Every year the same damn thing:

"That one's mineeeeee."

"No it isn't, it's mine! Remember when mom gave it to me last year?"

"I get to hang that one! It's my favorite!"

"You did it last year, it's my turn this year, mooooommmmmmm!"

The rule is that if they fight about it, I get to hang it. You'd think they'd learn. They all hung 10 and I was stuck with 67. Next year we're having a bulb tree.

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