Saying my childhood was unconventional is pretty much an understatement of the century and I have a multitude of examples to support my statement… and, sometimes I honestly don’t know how I survived my upbringing. My parents were completely weird and not normal at all and sometimes not in a good way, but hey… what choice do we have?
Speaking of Christmas, when I was a kid, it would take over two days to get all the Christmas decorations down from the attic, unwrap all the Chinese Xmas goodness and strategically place all the plastic Santa’s, angels and flammable miniature trinkets around the house. This was the norm for any child of a baby boomer living in the 80’s. But, this isnt what made my childhood so frickin weird… Oh no… I can give you weird! There are three separate stories where my parents STOLE Christmas trees. Here’s what happened:
Sometime like three decades ago, my parents thought it would be a really good idea to team up with my mom’s half sister and husband and both get themselves a Christmas trees the ‘old-fashioned way’ whatever that means… Under the cover of darkness in the middle of nowhere, as the story went, my mom and her sister dropped my dad and her sister’s husband, Alan, off on the side of a deserted road near a Christmas tree farm in New Jersey. My dad and Alan were essentially going to ferret though the sea of Christmas trees during this moonlit evening looking for most spectacular tree they could find. Then, they would cut it down and await the return of my mom and her sister. Ok… seems like a good plan.
This was before mobile phones (and watches apparently) because the getaway car drivers (my mom and her sister) were having a bit too much fun back at the pub (aka got shit-faced) and lost track of time. Now my dad and Alan didn’t know this so this resulted in them hanging out with stolen Christmas trees on the side of the road. When they saw headlights, they got excited and started to wave the car down, but when they realised it wasn’t my mom and her sister, they freaked out and jumped into the muddy ditch. This went on for a few hours until mom and her sister finally left the pub and arrived at the predetermined location a few hours later. The guys threw the trees back into the truck and in disgust, got into the vehicle, slammed the doors and they all drove off back home.
When they finally reached their destination everyone was pretty angry. When they started to unload the trees, that’s when they discovered that they were one tree down. Upon closer investigation, it was conformed that my parent’s tree was missing. There was a pretty harsh and heated debate over many years as to what really happened to the missing Christmas tree, but the conclusion that was reached was mom’s driving was a bit erratic. She hit some kind of pothole and one of the trees went flying out the back. It literally bounced out of the back of the bed of the truck.
Ok… so it’s been a few years since that ‘missing tree incident.’ You’d think that my parents would have matured a bit and swap the late night stolen Christmas trees and wet ditches off the side of the road for a more civilised way to obtain a Christmas tree. Nope. As this story goes, both my parents headed to one of the local chain stores and spent countless hours choosing the correct tree. I always attempted to avoid the dreaded search for the perfect Christmas tree for a number of reason. 1. It would always take my mom FOREVER to pick the BEST tree… 2. It would always end in some kind of teary eyed, guilt ridden emotional debate that NOBODY wanted to be apart of because you’ll never win… and 3. I just spent over two days of pulling all the shitty Chinese manufactured Christmas Decorations out of the attic and placed them around the house. Mind you – this all happened the day after Thanksgiving and it was relentless… so if I could make myself scarce, I would.
So mom and dad are at the store. They FINALLY pick they PERFECT tree. The attendant gives mom the receipt to pay for the tree… and dad and this guy throw the tree over the fence into the back to the truck.
Mom walks though the store, pass the registers and out the front door… she gets into the truck. Dad gets into the truck and they drive off. Now, to be fair, at this point dad didn’t know that mom just stole a Christmas tree. It was only until they both get home and I asked them how it all went. That’s when mom fessed up to getting an ABSOLUTE BARGAIN on the tree by not paying anything for it. My mom literally STOLE Christmas.
The third memory I have was when I was about twelve. Mom and I were driving around the town on our mega-errand-collection-athon. Seriously. Mom always had a habit of saying… “Hey, Tara! Want to go to the post office?!” And I’m like, “Hell yeah!” But that would turn out to be… “Post Office, and oh, let’s go get the car washed.. and what about getting lunch, and oh! Now we need to get dinner, so let’s go to the supermarket…” and six destinations and eight hours later, I was finally home. I smartened up to the trend after this happened a number of times. But, I mean, sometimes I’d get duped, too… like this one time….. Mom and I were coming from somewhere random on our six stop, eight hour journey when out of nowhere she sees this small little lonely Christmas Tree. I don’t know what’s going on.. I’m just sitting in the passenger seat looking out the window whilst my mom yells, “TARA! JUMP OUT RIGHT NOW AND GRAB THE TREE?” I’m like,”Um, what?” She’s like “JUST DO IT!” So without anymore hesitation, I unbuckle my belt and open the door. I grab the tree off the side of the busy main road of Marlton, New Jersey. I opened the back of the van, chucked the tree in, pulled down the hatch and slammed it shut.
My mom sped off and says to me, “Keep down! Let’s hope nobody saw anything!” I ducked down in the back holding this tree as mom weaved around the backstreets of my hometown for the next five minutes. Eventually we reached home with our brand new tree.
To be fair, I don’t steal stuff. However, I was a very impressionable young kid with crazy parents who kinda had no shame. Just to paint the picture a bit better, my mom once ‘borrowed’ orange traffic barrels’ from the side of the road because as mom said, they made great jumping barrels for horseback riding! Turns out some old lady did call the cops on her and yes, they did arrive. The kicker is, my dad was friends with the cops (we lived in a small town) and dad had to take the barrels back to the construction site never to be stolen by my mom even again.
An Aussie girl gone walkabout in the great big world!