I saw a very odd tree a few weeks ago when I was driving through a backwater in New Jersey.
It was tall, but too skinny. The branches at the top were OK, but those 30 feet below were the same size; lower branches are supposed to be longer. Then it hit me: This was a cellphone tower, purporting to be a tree.
I had heard that wireless companies were disguising their towers to “blend in” with nature. I don’t think I had ever seen a tower like this one, though.
Oddly, it reminded me of Christmas. That’s because, during one stretch of my childhood when the Christmases can only be described as hellish, my dad decided real trees were too much work. He bought a tree he could keep in a box in the basement the other 11 months of the year.
It was silver. Every branch was like an épée with tinsel split ends. All exactly the same, arranged around a central pole with mechanical symmetry. Perfectly conical. I hated it. A few years later, my dad bought a new artificial tree, but one that was green and asymmetrical and, in general, more treelike. I preferred real, but this worked for me.
I remember in those days going through the toy sections of store catalogues and cutting out the pictures of toys that I wanted. This was to give my parents an idea of what to get me for Christmas. No way I was going to leave the choices to them.
I recently received the modern version of that from two of my children. They, too, wanted to avoid leaving it to the parents to pick out the Hanukkah gifts. Desperately to avoid that. So they emailed us URLs for gifts they want.
Welcome to the 21st century, digital holidays.