Doug Palmer was expecting a lush, dense, and fragrant Christmas tree.
What he got was a 23-foot tall tannenbaum twig.
The mayor of Trenton, N.J., was so furious over the scrawny tree outside city hall that he postponed last week's tree-lighting ceremony until a more fulsome fir can be found.
Who can blame him?
What season is more fraught with expectation and tradition? (That's why parents who tinker with holiday norms do so at some risk; see story at right.) Pity the parent, spouse, or tree supplier that shows up with a spartan spruce. Or cockeyed conifer. Commit such an arboreal faux pas and you'll have fewer friends than Ebenezer.
This year, more folks are shopping the Net for their Christmas tree. I'm sure most trees are excellent. (If you're considering a living tree, see page 19.) And I'd rather let the UPS guy wrestle a balsam home than do it myself. But what if you get a lemon?
Which brings us to the two cardinal rules of Christmas tree selection: Eyeball it first, from all sides. Rule 2: Bring the entire family. Let all share in the festive occasion. (More important, if you later realize you've got a Charlie Brown tree, blame can be shared.)
One year, while living in Mexico City, we splurged and bought a honkin' nine-footer. $100. And that was a bargain. What we didn't realize until later was that we actually got three trees. Two smaller firs had been carefully secured to the trunk of the main tree to give it a fuller appearance.
So Mayor Palmer, if all else fails, two words of advice: Glue gun.
* We're home. Tell us how we're doing. Write the Homefront, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org