Nearly a decade ago I realized that I had to get an artificial tree at Christmas time. Not that I don’t love freshly cut trees: but by the time they have been cut (in Vermont?); left on the ground for a month or so; moved to NYC; and set up for sale on the streets; the trees tend to dry to out. The last tree I bought cost a small fortune and immediately dropped all its needles upon entering the house, instantly becoming a serious fire hazard.
(Tip: hang a fir-scented sachet on the artificial tree and burn a lovely fir-scented candle nearby: it smells authentic!)
So I contacted a local store manager (at Silk Gardens and Trees on 28th St.) and asked him to set aside a 5-foot tall tree for me when they came in. And then I forgot all about it. In mid-December, I received a call from Nacho, asking me if I still wanted a tree. The smaller ones were already gone; but he was able to get me a good price on a 7-foot tall fir.
When I went to retrieve it, I was appalled. The tree weighed, it seemed, about the same as a Volkswagen and was packed into a very long coffin-like box that was impossible for me to handle. It was too big for a taxi and too far from my apartment to drag. Nacho was unperturbed. “You’ll manage”, he said, and went back into his store, leaving me stranded on the curb with the elephantine package.
While I hesitated, anchored to the spot by the box, a young man in uniform approached — and saluted me! “U.S. Marines at your service, ma’am,” he said in a Southern drawl. “You look like you could use some help.”
With that, he popped the monster onto his shoulder and followed my directions to get to 23rd Street. While he bounced along, he told me that he was from “N’awlins” and that this was his first trip to New York. He jes’ loved the city and the people and was looking forward to spending the holidays seeing all the sights.
When we got to my apartment, I opened the door and he flung the box inside without entering. Then he saluted me again. “Y’awl have y’awl a Merry Christmas, ma’am”, he drawled, as I tried to thank him. “Glad to be of service!” And then he disappeared.
When I called Nacho and told him what had happened, he was unfazed. “I told you you’d manage,” he said. “¡Felíz Navidad!”