It never actually seems like Christmastime until you've got a live tree in the house, smelling of pine sap, and covered in twinkly lights. But in New York, where the apartments are small and schedules are busy, it can be hard to fit one in. Nevertheless, almost as soon as Thanksgiving Day was over, my roommates and I decided we just had to get one. And so we did.
On Tuesday night Ryan came over and he walked with all three of us up to Broadway where they've got Christmas trees for sale. For the past several weeks we had been eyeing them, semi-flirting with the skinny scruffy gap-toothed tree-seller, trying to decide if he could give us a good deal or if we ought to just have Ryan drive us in his car out to Jersey or someplace where trees might be more plentiful and less pricey. But it was a rainy night and Broadway was right there, and the trees looked nice, and they really weren't all that expensive. Besides, I have no problem doing my part to keep the tree-farmers in business. The gap-toothed tree-salesman greeted us familiarly and eagerly showed us our best options. As the three of us girls did our best to drive him up a wall with our questions and requests, the salesman good-naturedly chatted about the life of a tree salesman in Harlem, with a hand-rolled but unlit cigarette dangling from his lip. "I'm actually a dancer, you know, but I do this for some extra money," he went on as us girls went from tree to tree assessing the merits of each. "People have been offering me places to stay around here--it's a nice area. If you're looking, I've got leads on rooms for like one-fifty a week. But yeah, it's kind of scary to walk home late at night sometimes with like a grand in my pocket from selling trees. But all the cops know me..." Ryan, who is a Harlem cop, made a face and shook his head while the guy just kept on rambling on.
Ryan wasn't too impressed by our attempts to flirt with the scruffy salesman for a tree-discount, and he thought it was ridiculous that in the end we just picked a tree and decided to buy it without even untying it. But he was perfectly happy to throw it on his shoulder and carry it home for us, and help us get it set up in its place of honor in the living room. Ryan likes to do manly things like that for us, a household of helpless females, and we repay him with food.
Over the next few days we've decorated the tree with lights, cut paper snowflakes, and a beautiful paper star that Jessica got in Germany. And little by little the whole house is getting decked out in holiday style, with a festive garland here, a string of lights there, styrofoam snowflakes everywhere, all to the accompaniment of much seasonal music. We even have eggnog in the fridge, and a wreath on the door. There is still a bit more decorating to do (Jessica really wants me to attach my round white paper lanterns together to form snowmen and tie scarves around their necks, and we have to get some mistletoe for the parlor), but the living room is done at least. And when I come home exhausted from work each day, I just take one look at the Christmas tree and feel happy and peaceful. It's Christmas-time in the city.