So Where's My Tree?

by Mel Gilden

Many years ago, when I attended Hebrew school, we students were encouraged to purchase trees in Israel, each costing only a few bucks. The tree-planting people at the other end of the world would plant a tree and register it to you or to the person of your choice in a big book. The joke was, supposedly when people visited Israel they would get off the plane, look around and ask, "So where's my tree?" Was there a big record book? Is there now a big computer? I have no idea.

But that was many years ago. I now have vast experience choosing trees in person, most especially Christmas trees. The sweetie and I have been dating for nearly 30 years and living together for nearly 10, and during each of those years I went along to help her pick out a suitable holiday tree.

Because the sweetie has very definite ideas what a Christmas tree looks like, I was not always much help. "How about this one?" I would ask hopefully. She would peer at my selection as if she wasn't sure it was a tree, let alone a Christmas tree, and the search would continue. And so it was this morning.

When she finally found a tree she liked, we took it home on the roof of her car ("Looks as if everybody is going to Dunsinane," a literary friend of mine used to say) and got it inside through the big sliding glass door off the back yard. She is now in the living room decorating the tree — because as is the case with tree selection, she has very definite ideas about tree decoration. Later, I will have an opportunity to hang some of my Star Trek ornaments from window decking.   

What has any of this to do with writing? Only in the sense that anything that happens in one's life is what another friend of mine calls "poem fodder" — it is something to write about. "Corroborative detail that adds verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative."

What does that mean? A writing teacher of mine used to talk about The Deep Well: as each of us goes through life we throw our experiences down into this pit, where it sinks or floats, or gets mixed up with the other junk and sludge down there. When we want to write a story, we throw a bucket down into the well and bring up candy wrappers, old rubber bands, lengths of string, and enough water to prepare. The best writers are the ones who are best at organizing these bits and pieces — corroborative detail — into a pleasing artistic composition.

The sweetie has found her tree for this year, and I have pitched yet another experience into the ever deepening morass at the bottom of my Deep Well. I may write a story tomorrow, but it will be another year before I need to ask where my tree is.