Several weeks before Christmas we decided that we would acquire a real tree to help us celebrate versus using an artificial one, and in part to honor my mother who died this year, as she did not much care for our use of the "fake" one, as she called it.
Driving through the Lowe's parking lot that particular Saturday I noticed they had Frazier firs, some of which appeared to be the height we desired. I checked it out and found that to be so, but as we were running errands at the time, the actual tree selection would have to wait.
Later that afternoon I returned to Lowe's to find it jammed with - apparently - quite frazzled shoppers.
I was soon to find that to be an understatement.
I quickly headed toward the tall trees finding myself alone among the three of the desired height.
My hefting one up drew the attention of other shoppers and in no time I found myself joined by a nice enough gentleman, whose name I unfortunately never got, so I'll call him Bob.
Bob wanted a tall tree, too, but stated he would take one of the two I did not select as I found the tall trees first.
He even helped me hold the trees for inspection as I did the same for him.
In short order we heard the loud cry of a very excited and somewhat agitated sounding woman shouting, "There, that is the tree I want, I told you I want the tallest tree they've got," to her quite defeated looking husband.
As I laid the one tree down, she immediately swooped down on it and stated, "You do not want this as you put it down," and ordered her husband to pick it up so they "could get out of here."
Now, while this is obnoxious in a way, it was also a bit funny, because her barking orders kind of reminded me how Colonel Klink sounded and behaved on "Hogan's Heroes."
Bob attempted to explain to the woman that I should have first pick, but she dismissed him out of hand declaring, "He put the tree down, it is mine," told her husband to "get the tree," which he did and they were gone in a proverbial puff of smoke.
Bob looked at me with some consternation on his face and declared "damn foreigners," which was kind of offensive, but curious in that Bob would appear to most, to have some characteristics that would make one think he is of Latino descent.
When I pointed out to Bob that some would possibly be so unkind as to say something like that about him, he huffed back, "I am an American and I am polite to others," as if that would make perfect sense to me.
He was, at least, being polite to me.
While we were finishing up this exchange a very yuppie looking woman, with husband in tow, walked up and put her hand in to hold the tree Bob was holding and declared, "This is it, the tree I want."
A dumbfounded Bob and I started to explain at the same time that he was going to buy one tree and I was going to buy the other, we just hadn't decided which one we were going to buy yet.
She actually had the nerve to say to us, "That doesn't matter, this is the tree I want," and told her husband to "get it."
"Get it!" seems to be the optimum tree buying term.
As he reached in for it, Bob and I both told them again that we were going to buy the trees and that we were sure they could find a tree somewhere.
The woman, not giving up stated, "But that is the tree I want!"
My compatriot and I stood there like deer caught in headlights before the husband got up the courage to say they could look elsewhere and asked his wife to "come on."
You could see she didn't want to, but she released the tree while beginning a verbal tongue lashing of Bob which continued as long as we were in hearing distance.
In that instant we decided which tree we wanted and started toward the check-out.
But both of us could not help but comment on how it seems that the true spirit and true meaning of the holiday is getting lost if people could treat others that way over a tree.
It only got worse.
As we got in line I remembered that I was supposed to pick up a tree stand as well and asked Bob if he could watch my tree while I went to find one. "No problem" was his reply.
I was only an aisle or two away when I saw a man and woman walk up to the tree I had laid down in the line and was close enough to overhear the wife declare something along the lines of "Oh, look, here is the size tree I want, let's get it."
Again with the "get it."
They then butted in line in front of four or five other customers and declared the tree was theirs.
Bob explained the situation to them, but the woman stated that since there was no one with the tree it was "fair game."
She was also nonplussed when it was explained that it wasn't right to butt in line either, in spite of other customer's protestations.
I returned to my tree and thanked Bob for watching it and stood back in line thinking the couple would get the hint and leave.
Ha! She informed me mightily that the tree was theirs.
When I started to tell her why that wasn't the case, she cut me off and inform me that I had "abandoned the tree," so therefore it was "fair game."
She again didn't understand the concept that one doesn't simply walk into a store line in front of other customers.
When I said I would go get a manager if need be, she was encouraged by her husband that they could find another tree while she continued her protestations that it was indeed "hers."
By this time we had drawn the attention of a staff member who asked if everything was okay.
I am not sure if this was what caused her to give up, but she relinquished her claim to the tree with a simple "no."
After the staff member walked away, however, she derided us with the declaration that not only had we ruined her Christmas but that we had ruined her children's Christmas as well and that we "should be ashamed," and so on, as she reluctantly walked away.
When I reached the check-out I was told by the clerk that incidents like that had been occurring all week.
Bob and I looked at each other in bewilderment.
"How can a tree make or break one's Christmas?" we asked each other.
More importantly, we pondered "what has happened to us as a people when we fight over a symbol of the holiday that is not religious though significant in nature?
This saga ended as I was stuffing the tree into the trunk of the car while wishing I had brought the truck.
Bob noticed my difficulty and pulled around to where I was parked and inquired if he could help.
I explained that I daftly brought the car and not my truck. He asked me where the truck was.
When I told him it was across town at the Frederick Towne Mall, he offered to sit with my tree while I exchanged vehicles saying that he had bought the day's paper and hadn't had time to read it yet, so he had no problem waiting for my return.
While I pondered this offer a neighbor pulled up and offered to bring it home in their Jeep Cherokee, an offer I readily accepted.
I thanked Bob. We exchanged a "Merry Christmas!" as he drove off.
To me Christmas is the birth of our Savior.
But it goes deeper. It is a spirit of hope. A time of reflection on that which is important in life is another.
A time for charity and remembering that charity should go on throughout the year is something on which I, too, reflect at this time.
But finally, how we treat each other, simple human kindness, is a focus that should come to mind during the season, whether one is remembering the true meaning or not.
My tree experience drove home the fact that those spirits have been lost on far too many of us. People, I hope, have some kind of revelation as the world might well be a better place if they do.
Bob seems to me to have epitomized the spirit of how to treat each other in his actions that day.
A sense of fairness, an expression of helpfulness and a dose of kindness is what Bob doled out to me that day.
This is something, I hope, we can all give to each other, not only at Christmas, but all year 'round.