Sunday afternoon into evening, I put hundreds of lights on my Christmas tree and only swore once. It was a good one though, loud and prophetic, as all the lights went off simultaneously. The cursedness of Christmas lights from years past went through my mind and I said something regrettable.

Turns out I’d just stepped on the cord and pulled the plug. Quickly repaired. I continued with my least favorite activity of the year.

It’s not the actual placement of the lights on the branches that I dislike so much. Years of therapy have taught me it’s the sense of dread I feel as I put the lights on the tree that’s so disabling. “They’re lit. They’re lit. They’re dead. They’re all dead!” Yes, I think it’s the inevitability of death that gets me about Christmas lights. Now, I’m not the only one who thinks this, am I?

Might have started when I was a small child. I was sent by my parents to spend the day, the night, and the next day with Grandma. Not that I was counting the hours. It was Christmastime, of course. The woman had put up a tree, gangly and pitiful though it was. I stood there, aged 8, and looked at that scrawny specimen and wished I was home putting lead-based tinsel on our tall, spreading, welcoming Christmas tree.

Honest to God, I was just standing there when the tree took a dive at me, knocking me down and scattering its glass ornaments across the freshly polished wood floor. That brought Grandma from the kitchen on her stout Germanic legs, interrupting her remarkable success at burning another pot roast and somehow making Jell-O warm.

I knew better than to expect a hug and a “How are you?” After all, Grandma was an unhappy woman, and making everyone around her unhappy was her chosen path. I did not, however, in my 8-year-old innocence, expect to be accused of pulling her Christmas tree down about my ears. That, though, was the charge and I was dismissed to a nearby bedroom to ruminate for several hours, a better fate than trying to sever the pot roast from its gristly essence.

Enough about Grandma. I’m sure she had her good qualities. Likely she had her reasons for never displaying them around her loving grandchildren.

Have you noticed that Christmas trees have, in recent years, become more perfectly shaped? It’s all in the trimming, I suppose. Have a relative in northern Wisconsin who now raises Christmas trees. Told me all about it at a recent family funeral. He’s retired, has about 18 acres and has, in the past few years, given over about 12 of them to growing Christmas trees.

He’s got 30,000 trees on those dozen acres and will harvest some percentage of them each year for the next several years. He’s got a wholesaler who will ship his trees to major cities in Texas and the Southwest. He explained the math of Christmas trees to me and I’ve decided to level my garage and invest heavily in pine.

Everyone needs a fallback.

This could catch on in Oak Park. I don’t think there’s an ordinance against growing Christmas trees here and it all sounds very mulchy and post-service economy to me. If the president can plant a victory garden at the White House, the 85 percent of us here who voted for him can convert gravel parking spaces into tree farms.

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Dan Haley

Dan was one of the three founders of Wednesday Journal in 1980. He’s still here as its four flags – Wednesday Journal, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark – make...