It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like (Tara’s in the Mood for) Christmas

A funny thing happened this year. My girlfriend came down with a serious case of Christmas spirit.

Me? I always feel festive during the holiday season. I eat this jingle bells shit up. Way back in July, we were sitting outside on the patio, playing cribbage and enjoying an adult beverage, when I noticed that one of the leaves on the nearby maple tree had an ever-so-slight twinge of crimson, and approximately one point eight seconds after pointing this out to Tara I said, “So, where should we put the tree this year?”

“What tree?” she asked.

“The Christmas tree, of course!” I replied. Duh! Had I not just pointed out that the leaves were changing color?

“Babe, it’s 90 degrees,” retorted she.

“Sure, it’s ninety today. And it might be ninety a week from now. Hell, it might be ninety a month from now. Possibly two months from now. But it’s never too early to start planning! The holidays are practically here! I say over in the corner, by the window. We can move the recliner over. What do you think?”

She didn’t think it was time to start thinking about it yet, and that is when I made the sad realization that not everybody is into the holidays like I am. Tara had, in fact, let me know that Christmas never excited her all that much. She thought it was more for children. (Children?! Puh-leeze. Why should they get excited for Christmas? Aside from all that Santa bullshit and piles of gifts and two weeks off from school? What a head-scratcher that comment of hers was, but I’ve never claimed to understand women). And until last year, when I visited her in Ely for the holidays, she hadn’t even put up a tree in years. Because of this preexisting ambivalence toward the bestest, most jolliest time of the year, I figured I would just have to rely on having enough Christmas spirit for the both of us.

And then, the unexpected occurred. She had to work the day after Thanksgiving, so I busied myself decorating the house. (I held back this year, waiting until the following morning to haul out the decorations. Usually the guests are maneuvering around plastic bins marked XMAS to load their plates for second helpings of turkey and stuffing, and the minute the door is closed behind them, the tinsel is flyin’).

(Actually, have you noticed nobody decorates with tinsel anymore? Why not?? I love the stuff. Sure, it clung to your clothes whenever you walked past the tree, and you’d find errant silver strands all over the house well into springtime, but it was shiny and festive and looked like icicles hanging from your tree branches. I have one box that’s unopened and about twenty years old. I can’t bear to use it until I’m sure I can find more somewhere).

Anyway. Tara came home that afternoon, found the house partially decorated, and – instead of scoffing and plopping down on the couch to watch an episode of Project Runway – actually started helping me put up decorations. I was surprised and delighted. Still, I figured this was a temporary burst of cheer at best, intended to placate me. But it was, in fact, only the beginning.

“Let’s put up lights!” she urged. So we put up lights. “Let’s buy eggnog!” she said. So we bought eggnog. “Let’s dust the house from top to bottom and mop the kitchen and clean the knobs on the stove!” she said. So she dusted the house from top to bottom and mopped the kitchen and cleaned the knobs on the stove.

Tara's Tree
Tara’s poofy Christmas tree.

OK, so that last part isn’t relative to the story. But she was suddenly buying a stocking and a miniature Christmas tree that expands in water for her desk at work and joining in the Secret Santa festivities there. And then, there was this Facebook post the other day.

Me and two other gals at work signed up for the gingerbread house decorating contest as the Gingerbread LaLas. This christmas spirit crap is getting out of control.

I was so impressed with this unexpected display of Christmas cheer, I decided to take a gamble and shoot for the moon. I took a deep breath and the words came tumbling out.


“I beg your pardon?”

Slow down, Petruska. “Err…sorry. Can we go cut down a real tree this year?”

She hesitated no longer than three or four seconds before responding, “Sure!”

Wow. Did somebody spike my girlfriend’s eggnog?

So, yesterday we all piled into the car – me, Tara, and the kids – and drove into the countryside to cut down a fresh tree. OK, it was actually a U-Cut tree farm located half a mile from a strip mall, but still. It beat the heck out of a fake, plastic tree! This was the same Christmas tree farm I used to go to when the kids were little, back in another lifetime. It had been eight or nine years since I’d cut down a tree, but it was just like I remembered.

Sure, it looks all majestic just standing there. But somebody’s gotta cut that sucker down…

Meaning, difficult as shit.

Seriously. Have you tried cutting a tree down lately? It’s a flippin’ TREE. With a thick trunk. That bandsaw the farm provided was about as useful as a Swiss Army knife. Actually, less useful, because it didn’t come with a toothpick. After much blood, sweat and tears – and muddy jeans – I finally somehow managed to wrestle the beast into submission. We got it tied atop the family truckster, hauled it home, and spent the rest of the afternoon listening to Elvis’s Christmas Album, drinking eggnog (you bet your ass it was spiked, after that ordeal), and decorating the tree. We had a couple of mishaps – like forgetting to trim enough of the bottom branches from the trunk, and watching in horror at one point as the fully decorated tree crashed to the ground before our hapless eyes, shattering a bunch of ornaments in the process – but in the end, the scent of fresh pine and the beautiful, twinkling lights made the whole thing worthwhile.

“Next year, if we get a real tree again, we’re buying it from the corner lot,” Tara said afterwards.

Somebody named Mark!
Somebody named Mark!

I did not disagree. After all, my muscles are killing me today. Even ones I didn’t know I had. As long as we end up with a real tree, who cares if somebody else beat us to the punch and cut it down first?

I’m just thrilled that my girlfriend is full of happiness and cheer this year. Fa la la la yeah!



Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

15 thoughts on “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like (Tara’s in the Mood for) Christmas

  1. Aw, yay, so glad you guys are having a lovely holiday season! I’ve been wicked into the Christmas spirit this year myself – we put our tree up right after Thanksgiving, and while I do have lights I want to put around the windows and Christmas Cards I’d like to send out, I’m happy with the way things are at the house (No tinsel here, the cats’ll eat it and its dangerous for them!).

    Also, I miss having a fresh tree. Shawn’s allergic to pine, so I have to deal with a fake tree. We make it look nice though, and I usually get by with a Christmas tree scented candle. Or go to my dad’s, because he’s always had a fresh tree as long as I can remember. 🙂 Although I will say that I’m lucky that my cats do not care at all about the tree – they don’t try to climb it or anything, but prefer to lay under it. I caught Sky trying to eat a light the other night though. Silly kitties!

    Long comment is long. 🙂


    1. My god…if I was allergic to pine, I couldn’t live in the Pacific NW. Ack! What a horrible thought.

      I’m sure your tree looks very festive, even if it’s fake and doesn’t have any tinsel. Yay for thinking of your cats first. 🙂


  2. *clapping wildedly*

    Mark and Tara…the tree looks faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaabulous!!!!

    You GO!

    ” but in the end, the scent of fresh pine and the beautiful, twinkling lights made the whole thing worthwhile.”

    I agree, there is NOTHING like the scent of a REAL tree! One year (when I lived in Florida) I went to a place called, Christmas, Florida and a friend of mine and myself cut down our own tree. Like you shared, it was hell, but so worth it because I had never done that before.

    I too miss tinsel, Mark. There was something so cool about placing each little handful of tinsel on the ends of the branches after the rest of the decorations were on. It completed the tree!

    Sounds like you two had an awesome weekend, filled with Christmas spirit!

    P.S. Tara, I love Project Runway too!


    1. Christmas, Florida? Love the name…and the fact that they actually had fir trees suitable for cutting down and decorating. I mean, I assume they were firs and not palm trees (though it being Florida and all, that wouldn’t surprise me, either).


  3. WOW!! What a tree!! You guys did awesome!!

    I’m not one to go get a fresh tree…what with all the pine needles that find themselves in places you would never expect to find a pine needle…that and they dry out extremely fast! Better stop lest I spoil your spirit!

    Anyway…I do have an artificial one and it is very unique. The top and bottom of the tree have multi-colored lights and the middle of the tree has white lights. So somewhere out there…there is a tree like mine that has white lights on top and bottom and multi-colored in the middle. I wouldn’t trade this tree for nothing. I just can’t believe I was the lucky one who grabbed that particular box on that one particular day. WooHoo!!

    Enjoy the Season! You are both incredibly blessed and I am too. Love you both!!


      1. I’m impressed you even noticed the peace sign ornament…I didn’t realize it was visible in the picture. (There are actually two).

        Your tree definitely sounds unique. Hope you still have it up the weekend after Christmas – I’d love to see it!


  4. I swear to God, Mark, I think you just get funnier and funnier. Can’t say that I’ve ever tried to cut down a tree–EVER! But, it’s good to know you all are into holiday prep–Tara included.

    Sorry to be so behind on my blog reading! Sara told me about the new blog. Yes, she reads. She just doesn’t comment!



    1. You’ve never cut down a tree, Kathy? Ever?? What about all those times you needed to gather firewood to keep warm during those icy Vietnamese winters?

      Oh, and thank you for reading, Sara! 🙂


  5. My fake tree went up Saturday evening, but no lights because hubby discovered (I remembered) we were short a string of lights (again, just like last year). He was going to get more lights today & we were going to finish decorating it tonight, but real life got in the way. Don’t know if we’ll even bother now. Hope Tara enjoys her Christmas spirit


      1. Hubby went out yesterday & got some more strings more in keeping with the way I want the tree to actually look, so we should be good now – if I could only get him to put them on the tree!


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