FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Current Essays FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Contributors FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//About FRESH YARN FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Past Essays FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Submit FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Links FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Email List FRESH YARN: The Online Salon for Personal Essays//Contact


High Atop the Christmas Tree
By Shannon Starr

As the holiday season approaches I can't help but fondly remember a family Christmas story from my girlish youth.

At the age of sixteen in 1975, I was the proud owner of a 1967 VW Beetle, tan with red fenders and rust spots galore, it would run forever on a hope and a prayer and 79 cent a gallon gas. One of the responsibilities of having the car was to be at my mother's beck and call whenever she needed someone to run an errand.

The weekend right before the holidays that year, she asked me to go get a Christmas tree.

We never did things like normal families, no loading into the family car and walking the lot picking and choosing our favorites. No, we needed a tree to have in the window of our house so the small town neighbors in Jonesville, Michigan would think we were a functional family unit headed by a hard-working single mom.

Mom assigned my slightly older brother, Mark, to go with me to the local tree lot half a mile away. She handed him the $10 bill bestowing upon him all the rights and responsibilities therein. With the money in his hand, symbolically she was saying he was in control, whereas I was just the method of transportation.

His first order of business, once we fought over the fact that no-way-in-hell did he get to drive my car, was to stop and pick up my friend Terri. With long dark hair, exotic looks, and rather large ta-ta's for her age, Terri was the subject of my brother's eternal crush and he used any excuse to go see her. Terri, on the other hand, used any excuse to get out of the house.

Between my brother's duplicity, and Terri's hunger for adventure and getting high, I was on the road to hell. It had not occurred to me to do anything other than my mother's bidding, but Terri and my brother came up with a different plan.

Driving through Jonesville, they decided that we wouldn't have to spend the money on a tree. We could spend it on other things, and steal a tree.

Ten dollars didn't land in a teenager's hand every day back then. The two of them figured out we could buy a couple of dollars worth of gas, two packs of Kool cigarettes, two bottles of Annie Green Springs wine, and a nickel bag of pot.

Then once we had scored, we would drive out to the country to the tree farm. We had worked there the previous summer, lured by the idea of making a whole $2 an hour trimming the trees on hot August days. For three weeks, the tree trimming season, we were covered in sap, sunburnt beyond recognition, and the owners of a new-found insight into the life of the migrant workers and their bosses.

We also knew the layout of the farm.

First, my brother figured, we had to go back to our house, park down the block while he snuck into the garage and grabbed some rope and a saw for our crime. We would then stop at his best friends house, score the pot before getting the wine, and then on the way out of town, stop for gas.

While I looked forward to becoming a one-third owner of a nickel bag of pot, and drinking the sweet elixir of cheap wine on that beautiful day, I thought about the owner of the Christmas tree farm. Crotchety and mean, he treated the poor black migrant workers like dogs yelling at them that they weren't working hard enough, and constantly pointing me out as the only female in the crew and saying, "The white girl don't complain, I don't wanna hear you!"

We also heard stories from him during our lunch breaks about how during Christmas season he kept a shotgun handy to shoot people who would come out and try to steal trees.

So there I was driving, my big brother rolling a joint, and Terri swigging out of the first bottle of wine during the ten miles of country road to the farm. We passed the bottles and the joint while we masterminded our plans, and concocted an alibi in case we ran into the law.

Since the Christmas tree farm was only a mile from my grandparents' farm, we would drop my brother off at the tree farm, where he would penetrate the depths of the two-hundred acres to stay out of sight while he played Paul Bunyan.

In the meantime, Terri and I would drive to my grandparents' house, stop in to say hi and then leave ten minutes later, thus establishing our alibi for being in the area if the local sheriff happened upon us driving away with the tree strapped to the top of my car. "Why, we got if from our grandparents' farm, Officer."

I stopped the car, and my brother scampered off into the trees, saw in hand.

By the time Terri and I got to my grandparents' farm, we had reached a nice level of glow-on, and had inhaled enough of the marijuana to have altered the time-space continuum. By this I mean, once Terri and I wandered into the kitchen, which was filled with the warm scents of holiday cooking, we forgot about my brother.

PAGE 1 2

-friendly version for easy reading
©All material is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission

home///current essays///contributors///about fresh yarn///archives///
submit///links///email list///site map///contact
© 2004-2006