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Friday, April 12, 2024


Joyride III

By Rick Racela

After hours of cajoling it, my parents finally got it stay reasonably upright.   Adorned with white lights and red beads, and framed against the backdrop of our Revolutionary War era house, the tree looked like something out of one of the coffee table books of Americana.  At least it did, until it turned into a kind of Christmas hit man. 
In a moment that is still terrifying nearly 35 years later, I was putting a present under the tree wrapped in my best kid-made crayon scrawled brown-bag wrapping paper.  As I set down the gift, my parents’ jury-rigging began to unravel.  The tree lunged for me at the fastest speed I have ever seen any object hurl toward my mortality. I was a pudgy boy with a bowl haircut, and very little athletic prowess.  But I think I broke some kind of track record that Christmas.  I sprinted away from the approaching holiday projectile so fast that I may have gone through some kind of time space continuum. 
The behemoth of heavy pine smashed to the floor in dramatic fashion, sending bits of shattered decorations to every part of the living room.  I was left unscathed, physically anyway.  Even as a 5-year-old, it was one of those moments where everything seemed to be happening in slow motion, like that split second before a car accident.  It was one of the luckiest moments of my life.  If that heavy 8-foot Christmas Tree had plowed into my 50-pound body, I would probably still be recovering from the injuries. 
While my near-death experience is probably the most dramatic of my Christmas tree memories, it is hardly the only unusual one.  Living in rural western Pennsylvania one Christmas, we paid a nearby farmer $5 to chop down a tree on his land.  This tree appears to have been the offspring of the tree that nearly rendered me into oblivion.  Kris and I spent nearly an hour of frustration trying to cut through bark that was so tough it could have served as the material to make armor for some military fighting vehicle. 
After leaning all our weight against the tree for what seemed like the entire month of December, we finally got it to break away from its stump. Our car was parked a half mile away and to carry the tree there we would have had to navigate our way through dense patches of similarity robust pine trees so we tossed it over a weathered fence that separated the farm from a decidedly rural road. 
We retrieved our car and barreled down the road toward our semi-chopped down tree, nearly going airborne on a surface that appeared to have been paved to accommodate horse and buggy.  When we reached the tree, we jumped out of the car to retrieve it like we were Bonnie and Clyde on a bank job. 
Getting the tree up in the living room of our farm house appeared to be dŽjˆ vu all over again.  It took us hours of finicking with the pungent pine edifice to finally get it to stand up in the tree stand.  I instinctively made a wide berth around the tree for that entire holiday season, still very much traumatized by a fear of falling trees.
Last Christmas, we had a very different experience as we searched for the perfect Christmas tree.  This time we had some new hazards.  As we rated the potential holiday fulfillment of each tree on the lot of the nearby volunteer fire department, our two young sons darted from tree to tree.  This added a new kind of terror to the whole Christmas Tree experience.  Apparently trying to relive my close encounter with a pine projectile, 3-year-old Kameron and 1-year-old Joshua appeared to be testing the tip quotient of each tree on the lot. 
Kris and I had always been quite pondering in our search for our Christmas tree.  We usually executed a rather meticulous assessment of each potential tree as we searched for the perfect tree.  But this year, faced with the possibility of having her offspring squashed by heavy Christmas timber, Kris almost instantaneously chose a tree.  She gestured wildly toward a nearby tree, not really caring what it looked like.
The tree turned out to be a bit like the Christmas tree in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special.  It was missing some pine needles, actually quite a few.  But what it lacked in aesthetics, it made up by needing a home.  The boys loved the tree, completely unaware of any flaws.  Besides, the tree stayed upright for the entire month. Because I can tell you if a Christmas Tree falls in my house, I make a pretty loud sound.          
Keith Forrest an assistant professor of communication at Atlantic Cape Community College.  His late mother Libby Demp Forrest Moore wrote the Joyride column for this newspaper for 20 years.

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