A few weeks ago, I accompanied my wife to a nearby home improvement store. As we walked across the windswept parking lot, heading toward the automatic glass doors, I asked, “Tell me again, why are we here?”
She told me she wanted to look at “the Christmas stuff.” All I remembered was that I wanted to purchase a new, all-weather cover for our outdoor gas grill. I had even measured it in advance; a big accomplishment for me.
It was no coincidence that an army of inflatable and/or illuminated holiday creatures were waiting for us, just inside the door. They hovered above and behind us, creating an eerie, yet seasonal glowing phalanx, that was difficult to ignore.
Stacked at eye level on the sale floor was the selection of artificial evergreens. Some came complete with twinkling white lights, while others stood proudly in as natural a state as something crafted out of plastic and wire could be.
Keep in mind that a new artificial tree was not on our list. Suddenly, one of the pre-lit models took on a life of its own.
The artificial tree we fold and stuff into a box at the end of the holidays each year has served us well, for many years. True, there was an issue a couple of years ago when not all of the lights worked. The entire string was cut from the sterile boughs, faster than you can say “Tannenbaum.” That gave new life to old, forgotten strands and forced the purchase of new ones.
None of our artificial trees has ever tipped over or had to be tied to a staircase to keep it upright. Real trees, purchased at a picturesque, snowy lot or cut down in a muddy field, never seem to have the perfect trunk that makes for a perfect base. In addition, it seems rather dangerous to water a tree covered in electric lights.
As my wife enjoyed the selection of trees and holiday creatures, I excused myself to find the grill covers. They were easily located just a few aisles away and upon my return to the Christmas display, I found my spouse talking to a sales associate.
Two trees were vying for her attention. The needles were different, in both color and texture, and one model was pre-lit. When asked for my opinion, I preferred the tree featuring skinny needles and its own set of lights. We agreed on it, but could not locate one in the collection of cardboard boxes beneath the display.
Undaunted, the sales associate scanned the bar code on the oversized price tag and determined that the tree on display was the only one of that style in the store. She checked other stores in the area, only to discover the closest one in stock was in a store about 18 miles away.
The thought of navigating holiday traffic for 25 minutes with a 5-foot box in the back of a Toyota did not appeal to me.
There was no box for this display item, so we had to dismantle the three-section creation, disconnect its lights and stow it in the truck and back seat for the drive home of less than three miles. It looks great in our house.
Yet, I could not help thinking that nowhere in the immediate vicinity of the trees, wiry reindeer and wobbling snowmen were any religious figurines. No mangers, no magi, no shepherds. No star in the East. No angels. No babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.
The manger we display each year was built a long time ago, by my father. The bisque figurines were purchased primarily from Woolworth’s and each year, another lamb or two was added to the flock.
My mother delicately glued sequins and glitter to the wise men’s attire and the gifts they bore.
A tiny, round hook on the back of an angel allows her to float above the peak of the rustic family heirloom. On her sash is a single word.
David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of 286,500 readers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at email@example.com.