Up A New Hampshire Christmas Tree, by B. Elwin Sherman

Yes, it’s possible to celebrate Christmas somewhere other than New Hampshire.  I’ve done it, even once harking my heralding angels for a winter in Tucson, Arizona.  But, as a native Granite Stater in the desert, I just couldn’t warm up to jackalope reindeer, Frosty The Sandman, and hanging tinsel on a barrel cactus with the same degree of Ho-Ho-Holiday cheer, so I came home to snow country.

This is not to say that we’ll have a white Christmas here, though fresh snowfalls in my New Hampshire childhood were never in doubt through the Yule.  Fifty years ago, it was a question of how much, not if, we’d have snow for the Holidays, and the only global warming ever mentioned came from spiked punch.

Layered in winter clothes and looking like a miniature Admiral Peary, I’d take my new Christmas flying saucer and scale the driveway snowbank peaks, all lofty enough to have their own names.  I christened them after famous dogs:  Lassie’s Leap.  Rin Tin Top.  Huckleberry Hound Hill.  Sally’s Slide.

The latter was so-dubbed for my dog, Sally, famous (to me) for her willingness to join me on my silver metal snow disk, and having good sense enough to jump off before we crashed into the shed.  No matter, because boy bravado was measured by the number and depth of one’s saucer dents, and mine had enough to make it steer like a flying cup.

I’m also old and bold enough now to admit that I once snow-sculpted one of my backyard saucer summits into a likeness of our former Franconia Notch icon.  I used a shovel and hedge trimmers, and called it: “The Old Boy Of The Mountains.”

As a younger boy, I always wanted to be an older boy, and I used to wish for this at Christmas.  Older boys could stay up late and drink all the eggnog they wanted.  Now, I have to stay up late and shouldn’t have drunk all that eggnog.  Careful what you wish for.
I also regret never having told my Dad that his hedge trimmers weren’t stolen.  When the spring snowmelt didn’t reveal them, I knew they’d been picked up and “borrowed” into history by Crazy Ed The Handyman.

I don’t have to tell rural dwellers about Crazy Ed.  If you live in the country, you have one of your own.  He’s the only odd-job guy who can never quite finish all the chores you don’t need half-done, but will settle for, because if you didn’t half-do them yourself it would cost more in chiropractors than it would if you paid Ed for not doing what he doesn’t do when he finally never gets to them.

Still, half an unshingled roof unfinished beats a whole roof never shingled at all, and the true meaning of Christmas can be found in all of that somewhere.

I won’t go too much into gift giving.  If you’re stuck, and haven’t been provided a wish list by the giftee, try something unusual this year, like “The Cracker Whacker” (I’m not kidding).  It’s a specialized slingshot capable of throwing a Ritz Cracker 60 yards.  “Serve the fastest snack at your party!” says the ad.  Crazy Ed will love this, but you’ll have to find a way to get it to him when he doesn’t show up to not finish what he half-started before he never came the last time.

I do like giving one-of-a-kind gifts, and how better to please your sister-in-law feline fancier than with: “A Cat pyramid litter box extruded in black or white plastic with metallic gold hieroglyphics.  A fun place for kitty to go!”  (Google it, if you don’t believe me.)  Silly?  Perhaps.  But, I’d never belittle the eccentricities of pet owners.  I still believe that if you’re going to leave Muttley at home alone, you should keep the TV on and tuned to the Animal Planet (he likes dog show competitions the best.  Even your pooch needs an American Idol).

Meanwhile, there is one activity uniquely suited to Christmas in New Hampshire:  Cutting your own Christmas tree.

There are three rules:

1.  Remember, your eyes are always bigger than your living room, and trees outdoors always look smaller than they will actually be when brought indoors.  Measure carefully, unless you don’t mind removing ceiling tiles, admiring a horizontal angel atop a trapezoidal shrubbery, and storing your couch in the kitchen for the Holidays.

2.  When strapping your prized Tannenbaum to the top of the car, do so with the stumpy end facing forward, ESPECIALLY if you’re taking the interstate home.  If you overlook this logistic, you’ll arrive having to convince the family of the fun you’ll all have trimming the family stick.

3.  Please patronize one of the many Christmas Tree Farms in New Hampshire.  You’ll find one nearby by visiting: nhchristmastrees.com online.  Many of these locations offer “sleigh rides, caroling, hot cider and doughnuts, and even Santa Claus himself.”

Merry Christmas!
I’m off to measure the ceiling.

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B. Elwin Sherman still has to move his couch every Christmas, and sends his humor column from the New Hampshire upcountry and his website at: elwinshumor.com.  His column appears here with permission.  Copyright 2007 B. Elwin Sherman.  All rights reserved.
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