jeanine fritz

E very year, fetching the Christmas tree is a bit of a to-do here at the FritzieBooBoo household. Most years, it involves schlepping to the grocery store, knocking over several trees trying to get to the back, "where the good trees are," and then settling on the one that looks best even though it's tied up tight like a pine-scented blunt-wrap.

In more recent years, the tree has been faux, as in not simply plastic, but wholly unnatural, and possibly metallic purple.

This year, I went old school and visited one of the places you're actually allowed to chop down a tree. The areas change each year, based on where the trees need thinning. Check it out here: http://ow.ly/fTxbM

"We're not just getting a real tree here, Jeanine," said my wingman. "We're donating money to the forestry service, we're thinning an area so the trees don't choke out the grasses necessary for wildlife, plus we're helping with this whole wildfire situation. I mean, we're probably even saving LIVES."

Regardless of the truth of that statement, it sounded really good and so I agreed to trek three hours away for a life-saving tree.

Once we'd reached the main entrance and gotten directions to the "primo tree spot" from the one volunteer who'd refused to wear a Santa hat, it was time to four-wheel.

We wended our way up and down wee rocky roads with jaunty Christmas names such as Vixen and Blitzen (I demanded we avoid the Donner trail), driving past extended families tailgating behind their minivans with hot cocoas in one hand and hatchets in the other. Teen boys shaped like bendy straws tied trees to the roofs of Subarus while their fathers berated their knotting techniques. Grandmas hunkered down in folding camping chairs, tipping tiny flasks over their thermoses. And I decided that the second the truck I was in stopped, I was going to whip out the new saw and act like a lumberjack on speed. "I WILL CHOP ALL THE TREES!" I shouted out the window.

After four-wheeling to said primo tree spot, it was time to two-shoe it all over the place. Not being an experienced hiker, I was a little nervous when we trampled our way off the trail but within minutes, we were in a grove of trees so thick and delightful I didn't care if it meant being lost, sleeping outside, and having my head gnawed on by one of those mountain tigers everyone's always going on about...I was gonna have a tree too large to fit in my house. I was gonna have a tree dripping with ornaments and possibly hiding a family of squirrels. I was gonna have a tree worthy of Clark W. Griswold.

But as we pinballed our way through the primo tree spot, farther and farther and farther from the truck, over the river and through the woods, well past Grandmother's house, I realized I'd have to drag my behemoth Griswold tree all the way back up the mountain.

Suddenly a more modest tree sounded good.

I was gonna have a tree that fit atop my bookcase and still didn't touch the ceiling. I was gonna have a tree that could only hold four or five ornaments, and possibly only ones made of wax paper. I was gonna have a tree worthy of Charlie Brown.

Taking down the Griswold-sized tree might save a life. But sticking with the Charlie Brown tree would keep squirrels out of my apartment and that's something we'd all benefit from.