As we sat down at the table to eat, I noticed a big screen showing a video of a large and beautiful Christmas tree sitting all alone in a nice house.
Suddenly, there was a spark.
In less than 30 seconds, the house was engulfed in flames.
Strange way to start supper.
We were at a local restaurant at the invitation of a couple from church.
The good thing about the fire was that it was a controlled burn. Some pyrotechnical researcher needed to know just how fast a real Christmas tree could burn and thus destroy a whole house.
But then came the videos of real Christmas trees, and real houses, and real people.
And the real fires.
At this point, I realized that I should have just said no to the offer of free food.
Because free almost always has strings attached.
We were there with several other couples.
The plan: buy our supper and then guilt us into buying a rather expensive home fire alarm system.
Apparently, according to my friend, almost all residential alarm systems don’t wake people during a fire.
They’re just not loud enough.
But his system was loud enough to wake my wife’s cousins – in Russia.
I got the message.
Avoid dead Christmas tree at all costs.
But I didn’t have the small fortune he wanted for the better alarm system.
I thought about an artificial tree. Maybe a nice green fake tree. A nice facsimile of a tree, and (bonus) NONFLAMMABLE.
And 75% off AFTER Christmas! Yes.
But that’d be too sensible. What I heard from our girls was “Daddy, we want a real tree.”
So I was off to Lowes.
Found a tree. Douglas fir, about 8 feet tall. Sort-of greenish.
I wrestled him into the tree stand and plunked him in the authorized Christmas tree spot in the living room.
After a few minutes I hear:
“It’s raining – did you roll up the windows to your truck?”
“How could it be raining? We just left Lowes and it was a crystal clear night.”
We listened more.
Our half-dog, Coco, was sitting under the newly installed Lowes tree.
Christmas needles were slowly coating his body.
Dead brown needles.
Imagine Lowes selling a tree that had been cut – not the previous week in North Carolina and shipped gingerly to Mississippi with care – but two months earlier in the Mountains of Peru and smuggled in by dubious means.
The trip to southeast Mississippi must have been hard on the old boy.
Another trip to Lowes to return a dead tree.
Next stop: Home Depot. We found a less-dead tree that was willing to keep its green-ish needles attached at least until January 7. After that, it would be more likely to invite flames and destruction.
So, if you’re gonna buy a real tree, at least get a good alarm system.