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Modern Dad

Modern Dad: Up a tree, up with trees

Jon Show

I have fond memories of picking out Christmas trees when I was a kid. I grew up in a small, picturesque New England town and we always bought our tree from a local family who transformed their yard into a tree lot every December.

The family had a daughter my age that was pretty and blonde and had a jean jacket and rode on the back of motorcycles. As a Northerner-turned-Southerner I’ve come to learn this is common in the south; it was not in New England in the early ‘90s.

When my wife and I began dating we decided we should have a tree of our own. We lived in Charlotte’s South End, which didn’t have any lots, so we went to the big box retailers. The first year we had a tree from Lowe’s that was the fastest dying Christmas tree in history. The same thing happened the following year at Home Depot.

By year three we settled into what became our annual spot at the Kings Drive Farmer’s Market. It felt like the old family tree lot we visited when I was a kid; Christmas music and hundreds of trees and the smell of chainsaw and pine hanging in the air.

Each year, on the first Saturday of December, we’d make an Irish coffee, drive to the lot and stroll around until we found the perfect tree. Back at home we’d decorate the tree and have appetizers and drinks. We had no ornaments, so each year we’d gift a new ornament to each other.

The first year – after a bottle or two of wine – we (I?) decided we should put on fancy clothes and take a picture in front of the tree. Then we (definitely I) suggested we swap clothes and take another picture. That was our first holiday card.

Once we had our first child we continued going to the same lot but the routine began changing. The first Christmas with Future Man (nine year old son) was notable for a marital argument because my breast-feeding wife scoffed at Irish coffees and I didn’t think anything should change about our annual routine.

Future Man helped us put on an ornament and then we put him to bed and held onto the tradition of having dinner by the tree – in between feedings and screaming.

That year our card was a screaming kid dressed in a Santa suit, lying on the floor next to the tree with an empty bottle of Sam Adams and a cigar. We (I?) have a weird sense of humor.

The Blonde Bomber (five year old daughter) rolled around three Christmases later and we began gifting ornaments to the kids each year instead of each other. Around that time, Future Man adopted an annual routine of possessing the devil on tree decoration day.

That year we bought him a Captain Jake ornament and he told me he hated Captain Jake – his favorite TV show – and refused to hang it on the tree. The Blonde Bomber broke her pink cupcake ornament before it made it to the tree.

Our card that year was Future Man kicking the Blonde Bomber in the rear end while she was leaning over to put an ornament on the tree. It wasn’t a staged photo.

The next year our tree stand broke so I ran down to Walgreens to buy a new one. When I got home I found out we had two strands of burned out lights. I returned to the store and when I got home the next time I realized I bought lights with a white cord instead of a green cord. The third time I backed out of the driveway I ran over our $200 stroller.

I don’t remember the card that year.

Now that our kids have outgrown the insanity of early childhood, we’ve slowly adopted a new routine.

Instead of putting the kids to bed and having appetizers paired with wine, we have slices of pizza turned 180 degrees and cut to resemble a Christmas tree (crust is the stump). The tree lot Irish coffees have been replaced with candy cane milkshakes.

When we moved to Cornelius in 2013 we had to find a new tree lot. We asked our new neighbors and didn’t get any consensus. Fortunately, the giant inflatable Santa Claus in front of the Farm Fresh Market on West Catawba pointed us in the right direction.

This year we’ll jump in the family crossover with milkshakes in hand. My daughter will beg us to buy a tree too large to fit in our house and my son will plead to buy his own, smaller tree just for his room.

We’ll go home and eat tree-shaped pizza and try to get the kids to wait until I have the tree up before they open their ornaments. There will be at least one burned out strand of lights and three fights about who hangs what where and who puts the star on the tree.

We’ll eat our pizza, listen to music and maybe watch Elf. And then my wife and I will put them to bed so we can enjoy our newest holiday tradition.


Jon Show lives in Robbins Park with two potty-trained children and a wife who travels frequently. Modern Dad will appears monthly in Cornelius Today.