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No topping this Christmas tree

My mama used to tell me that my eyes were bigger than my stomach. I would get this admonition, of course, when I filled my plate up with more food than I could eat. That doesn't happen very often anymore. It's not that I don't put a lot of food on my plate. It's just hard to exceed my appetite these days.

I'm not the only one that eats a lot. Oprah Winfrey admitted to tipping the scales at a svelte 200 pounds this week. I figure as long as I am lighter than Oprah, I can still enjoy an extra piece of pecan pie at Christmas dinner.

But we were talking about my eyes being bigger than my stomach. The phrase can apply, of course, to non-edible entities like Christmas trees.

Yes, I said Christmas trees. 'Tis the season, don't you know, although it was hard to tell it judging from the vacuum of buyers at last week's book signings. I spent some lonely hours last week, y'all - but I'll plug my new book later. Right now, I need to tell you about me and Christmas trees.

We go way back. I have always loved Christmas trees. Real ones, understand. Don't even talk to me about bringing an artificial Christmas tree in the house. I know the real ones are a lot of trouble. I know you have to cut them off at the trunk and trim the bottom branches. I know that you get sap all over your hands. I know that the needles shed and get embedded in the carpet, and I know you have to keep them watered and that it's a lot of trouble to put lights on 'em. I know just about everything there is to know about Christmas trees.

And I still love them - so much so that I always want the biggest one I can fit in my house. This is where my eyes start getting bigger than my stomach, but first a little personal history here. I am from Porterdale, as you may know. When I was growing up, we had some of the scrawniest little Charlie Brown Christmas trees you have ever seen. One year, my daddy bought one for a quarter. You can imagine what it looked like.

Our decorations were as sparse as the tree. We had a couple of strings of lights and you remember how it was - if one went out, they all did. I loved our little trees, but they didn't look anything like the ones I saw in magazines and on television.

But I have made up for lost time during my adult life. Every year I strive for the "perfect" Christmas tree - one that reaches the ceiling and one that is adorned with thousands of lights and ornaments. If I could put the Rich's Great Tree - the one atop Macy's at Lenox Square (all natives know it is really the Rich's tree) - in my living room, I might finally be satisfied. Every year, I fall short of perfection. The tree I select isn't quite tall enough or shaped just right - or maybe the lights and other decorations don't do it justice. There is always something.

I used to go to the State Farmer's Market to pick out a tree, but for the past decade or so I've picked one up from Ben Evans down in Magnet. We have this little ritual, Ben and me. I walk around and look at the trees while complaining that none of them are tall enough while Ben pretends not to pay me any attention.

Well, this year Ben Evans was determined to outdo me. A week or so before Thanksgiving, his grandson, Cam, drove down my driveway with the biggest Fraser fir that I have ever seen on back of his pickup. Three of us had a hard time getting it off the truck.

"My granddaddy said he didn't want to hear anything else about his Christmas trees being too little," Cam told me.

Friends, when it comes to Christmas trees, my eyes are officially bigger than my stomach. Paul Bunyan would have had trouble felling that tree, and it took my son, Jackson, and me three hours to get it trimmed up enough to fit in a stand. When we finally got it in the house, we couldn't stand it up. When we finally stood it up, we had to build a brace out of two-by-sixes with which to mount it to the wall. The tree reaches our 15-foot ceiling, fills up an entire corner of the room and drinks a gallon of water every eight hours.

I ain't making this up, y'all. I spent eight hours stringing lights on the monstrosity and had to go back to the store for reinforcements three times. I think we had 2,000 lights at last count. We still haven't gotten the ornaments on the tree, and if we get an angel on top, she'll have to fly up there on her own.

I have learned my lesson. Next year, I am putting up a 6-foot aluminum tree with red ornaments and a color wheel.

But if you want to see this year's tree, come on by. I'll sell you a book or two while you're here. I've got plenty. Guess my eyes were bigger than my stomach in more ways than one.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net.