My parents resisted a real Christmas tree for the entire length of my childhood, claiming they were too expensive and too much of a hassle. So that meant I grew up with an artificial tree back in the days when a faux Christmas tree looked like a mass of greenish-black industrial test tube cleaner brushes - huge test tube cleaner brushes.
Then one night in April or May, right after sunset, my father came into the house and asked me and my brother if we wanted to light the tree on fire to dispose of it. You can't ask two boys in eighth grade if they want to light something on fire. The answer can only be yes.
So there we were, standing in a small yard with a tree that was insanely dry and brittle. And my father had the matches. And we were all standing too close. I'm not sure what we were expecting, but we weren't expecting THIS:
Because that's exactly what happened. Almost before the match even touched it. I can remember leaning way back and feeling and tasting the bright white heat. Like fuel-truck exploding heat. Like running-for-your-life heat. And the flames whipped up and the wind changed direction and the fire headed for the houses. The fact that the tree was totally void of any moisture probably prevented a Christmas Tree Catastrophe. THE Christmas Tree Catastrophe. The fire only lasted about two seconds and just sort of flashed the bricks and windows with flames.
And the tree was gone, except for an ugly black spine still sticking up from the hole. We didn't say a word and we honestly have never brought it up again. My brother and I shared a bedroom growing up and I can remember laying in my bed that night and whispering across to him, "I still see the flames when I close my eyes." He replied "So do I."
We had a real tree for the years that followed, but as soon as the kids moved out, my folks bought a new artificial tree. Nicer and a little more accurate than the previous fake, and pre-strung with lights.
Spoke to my mother this week and she informed me they didn't put the tree up this year. It was too much of a hassle.