An Erma Smack-Down

Any time you submit a piece of your writing for a contest or to be considered for publication, you’re leaving your most tender parts exposed and vulnerable. Picture a hermit crab without a shell; that’s a writer waiting for someone else to hand down judgement.  You’re all nervous and pink and quivery, hoping for the best but expecting the worst.  And it’s even scarier when you submit a piece to a contest that bears your writing idol’s name.

Back in February, I submitted a piece to the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Competition. And then I waited. As the time for the winners to be announced drew near, I imagined various scenarios that were taking place behind the scenes regarding my contest entry. Either  A) the judges were immediately declaring me the hands down winner, or B) the judges were scanning my entry, tossing around words like “crap-tastic”, and then balling it up for a three point shot into the trash can. After spitting on it.

Well, the winners were announced this week. And no, I wasn’t one of them. (Insert pathetic, sad trombone here.)  But I will hold my head high, because I’m proud of what I wrote. All 853 people who entered should be proud, for that matter. So while I lick my wounds and self-medicate with pie, I invite you to read my contest entry, which, because I lost, is now available for your reading pleasure. You’re welcome.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back to the Tree Farm

Tragically, the festivities took a dark turn when the children took the phrase “tree lighting” a bit too literally.

 

The brisk air and the appearance of twinkling lights tell me it’s time. Time to shake off the confines of our suburban cocoon and venture forth to the wilds, as our ancestors did before us.

“We’ll go today,” I tell my husband. He’s apprehensive, but knows nothing can deter me. I feel like Quint hunting the Great White, except…less grizzled. Yes, today we’re off to find the Christmas tree.

Lesser mortals have been felled by the Christmas tree farm’s porta-potties, hot cocoa the temperature of molten lava, $50 wreaths, and rusty saws. But not I. I will claim my prize, threat of tetanus or no.

Over the trilling of Jingle Bells coming from the parking lot loudspeakers, I sidle up to the white-haired farmer and deliver my edict. “Direct me to your most hearty trees, good sir,” I say grandly, as my kids try to pretend they’re with a different family.

“Well, we have some nice Scotch Pines… or maybe a Norway Spruce?” He offers. But I know what I came for and I’m not leaving without it.

“Ha!” I scoff.  “Not good enough. I want the toughest tree you’ve got,” I say, grabbing my children as I notice them trying to sneak off with a group of Mennonites.

He hesitates, then looks around before leaning in and whispering, “Well, there’s the Blue Spruce, but…” He shakes his head. “Are you sure you want that? Tough branches, but them needles are as sharp as… well, needles.”

Not to be dissuaded, I set my jaw and push up my sleeve. “See this scar? The Great Decorating Debacle, 2006. And this one? 2009. I was putting the star on top. Tree fell over. Lost seventeen ornaments that day…let’s just say I’ll never use a stepladder again.”

I see fear in his craggy blue eyes… and something else. Respect, perhaps? A few seconds later, he relents.

“Across the creek. At the second row of trees turn left. And…good luck out there,” he murmurs.

“Onward, family! The trees be yonder! Prepare to come about!” I shout, adding an “Arrrggghh!” and a  squint for good measure.

“Um, since when are you Scottish? And a pirate?” My husband asks. Ignoring him, I grab the proffered saw and sled and we plunge into the wilderness.

After an hour, we locate the Holy Grail: A tree we all like.  “That’s a twelve footer!” my husband says in awe. “Twelve and a half,” I say with authority. Sawing commences, and we load our trophy onto the sled to drag it back. It takes twenty minutes to lash the enormous tree to the roof of the car.

But as the leviathan on top of the car creaks and strains all the way home, I realize it might be time to face the inevitable truth.

I think we’re gonna need a bigger minivan.