I have an odd relationship with the December holidays, for a variety of reasons, not the least one being that I found out I was Jewish when I was 35, and so had to consider if I wanted to get and give presents for what seemed like the entire month of December (yes) or if I wanted to have money left to pay rent (also yes).
I also go up and down on the commercialization of the holiday season. Some years I’m shopping like a fiend, other years my present-worthy loved ones are lucky if I’ve taken the price tags off before handing them whatever I managed to get them that’s still in the bag from the store I bought it in. Frankly, they’re lucky to get anything from me at all.
Some years I love that Christmas and all the rest of the December holidays have shown up early. Others I spend sounding like Scrooge and the Grinch combined.
I’m just as bad with Christmas music. Some years I’d rather stab my eardrums out than listen to any Christmas or holiday-themed song. Other years I’m cuing up my (extensive) Holiday Playlist and singing along to everything.
Some years I decorate, the tree is up the weekend after Thanksgiving, and we look festive. Other years you’re hard pressed to tell if anyone in our household even knows it’s December, let alone a holiday time.
I’m a cipher, me.
But every year, what I do enjoy are the decorations. Oh, not mine, as stated above. But everyone else’s. Folks go to a lot of lengths to gussy up their homes and businesses for the holidays, and I appreciate them all. I enjoy the whimsical, the licensed characters, the elaborate displays, and even the few who just managed to get one string of lights up (they’re normally doing better than me). I enjoy everyone’s offerings.
Of course, businesses tend to go out of their way to really do it up right. Though sometimes they don’t really think it through.
As you may know (or may not, but you will in a second), we used to live in Hell’s Orientation Area (Phoenix, Arizona). Phoenix has many native flora and fauna, and one of the biggest and most plentiful are palm trees.
Palm trees, for those few who might not know, have very straight, tall trunks, with a spray of palm fronds on the top. They can be messy, but the ones at the malls are always skinned (dead trunk parts scraped off) and trimmed, so they look like every postcard of a palm tree you’ve ever seen. Some of them get the fronds chopped off in the winter, in order to keep the trees under control. (This lesson in Palm Tree Care will make sense in just a moment, trust me.)
When we lived in the Casa, one of the most cherished and hilarious moments was when the big malls – all of them lined with palm trees – put up the lights.
Palm trees decorated at Christmastime say, “We don’t do cold HERE, thank you very much, and we’re PROUD of it.”
They also say that the people decorating said palm trees either have zero sense of propriety, are totally clueless, or possess really warped senses of humor. Because when you wrap lights around a straight trunk, and then put lights on the fronds or, in the case of many of the malls, on the rounded top where the (now) cut fronds grow out of…well, basically, you’re saying that the mall is definitely happy to see you. Ecstatic, one might say.
The first time I saw what we all refer to as the Penis Trees during this magical time of the year, I laughed my head off. Everyone does. I mean, the malls have created giant sculptures to erect male genitalia in order to make it feel “like Christmas” and all you can do is laugh. Some of them even add balls, supposedly to represent Christmas tree ornaments but we all know that, in reality, it’s to make sure the trees are anatomically correct.
But after a while, that just becomes normal. You know the holiday season has officially started when the Penis Trees go up (see what I did there?).
But now we live in the Manse in Supposedly Hotlanta But Far Too Often Coldlanta (Atlanta, Georgia) and there aren’t a lot of palm trees here. Lots of trees – I mean, like more trees in a square mile than are possibly in the entire state of Arizona – but not a lot of palm trees, palms preferring a more desert-like climate.
I thought nothing of this when we first got here, in no small fact because I consider palm trees to be merely gigantic weeds that made good. Seriously, how the entire Southwest isn’t overrun with palm trees is beyond me – they grow like weeds and they are hard as hell to kill. So no palm trees was A-Okay with me. Right up until our second Christmas in the Manse.
And then it hit me, as I drove around and saw what decorations folks had out – there were no palm trees at the malls and shopping centers. There were no Penis Trees anywhere! I looked, I searched – none. Oh, I’m sure someone will read this and share where there’s a grove of them, all decorated properly, but I couldn’t find them. No Penis Trees. How could it even be called Christmas?
If you’d asked me two years ago what I’d miss the most about Phoenix during the holidays, Penis Trees would not have made the list. But now? Now I know what really says Holiday Time to me: A giant, electronic display that declares that there IS a palm tree in the mall’s pants, and it’s damned glad to see you and your money.
There’s no place like a palm grove for the holidays. Please celebrate responsibly.
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