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The Christmas Forest

Bees like honey.

Fish like water.

Flowers like rain.

They're amateurs. A bee's heart isn't in it. Fish hold a passing interest in their life-sustaining environment. They don't love these things, not when compared to the following.

My wife loves Christmas.

Hers is the pinnacle of devotion. An adoration so consuming it makes Pa and Laura Ingles look like adversaries. This why Grace thinks it's normal to have eleven Christmas trees in our house.

And they went up before Thanksgiving.

I lost the Great Christmas Tree Battle in 2002, just before Grace was born. In previous years, we'd go to the farm market on an appropriately chilly evening, select a stout 3-footer, bring it home and prop it inside the old bean pot on top of the lobster trap, which is very New England. As a bachelor, my roommate and I would cram a pine branch we found lying in the parking lot into an empty vodka bottle. The Vodka Twig we called it, and we were OK with that.

My pregnant wife looked at our humble tree, shining in the corner. "It would be cute for the baby to have a little tree of her own, in her room," she said.

"Her ROOM?" I said. "Who has a Christmas tree in their bedroom?"

"Just a tiny thing on the dresser," she said.

"All right, I guess." I said. That's when I lost.  I didn't know it then, but I had opened the flood gates, and let loose a torrent of pine.

We bought a small artificial spruce and put it in the nursery where it stood, covered in pink. My wife loved it and Grace ignored it the way newborns ignore anything that isn't going in or out of them.

The following year, more trees were added to the playroom, the guest room, William's room, OUR room, the bathroom....Each was decorated with a theme. I felt things were getting out of control.

"Honey, enough with the trees," I said.

"It's festive," she said.

"It's a forest," I said. "We're living in The Hundred Acre Wood. I expect to be mauled by Tigger at any moment.  Why do we need eleven trees? The guy who sells them  has less."

"First of all, there aren't eleven trees. Second of all, hush."

"Honey, I just counted." I began pointing from tree to tree, room to room, counting to eleven.

"They aren't all trees," she said. "For instance, that's not a tree in the bathroom."

"What is it then?"

"It's a decoration shaped like a tree."

Let that sink in for a second.

"Does it have a trunk, branches and dangling ornaments?" I ask.

"Yes," she says. "But that does not make it a tree."

"Gee, thanks, Joyce Kilmer. So that's not a tree in the same way that Grace's "Footless Tights" aren't pants?" I ask.

"They aren't pants," she says. "And those aren't trees."

Today, I've resigned myself to defeat. For eight weeks each year, I live in The Christmas Forest. I guess things could be worse.

I miss the Vodka Twig.

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