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I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I love my ShopVac.

Typically, my love affair with this handy appliance is most intimate during the post-holiday cleanup. When I begin the tedious task of taking the weary decorations down, a veritable minefield of dust bunnies, paper scraps, glitter, forgotten red and green M&Ms and, of course, pine needles is revealed.

I normally find my ShopVac lounging coyly in my laundry room, playing hard to get. I tease him out into the kitchen and fondle his attachments, playing the part of the damsel in distress. A particularly handsome upright model with a tall, slim canister and an extra long hose, some might call him a suck-up. But, he’s always more than willing to rescue me from any threatening disaster. After I plug him in, he dominantly takes charge of the situation, powerfully wielding his raw horsepower.

On any given day, these torrid trysts with my ShopVac are normally very brief encounters. But after the holidays, we often experience prolonged tete-a-tetes, thanks to a few very unfortunate Christmas tree purchases.

After years of living in the South, buying our Christmas trees in dingy strip mall parking lots or resorting to the artificial variety, my Navy family PCSed to leafy, snowy New England. I was excited for the full-on, over the river and through the woods, dashing through the snow, holly-jolly experience. I imagined happy family outings to local “you-cut” tree farms with row upon row of lovely scotch pines and Frasier firs. I figured we’d traipse off into the woods, perhaps while singing our favorite Christmas carols, and find gorgeously fragrant, well-tended trees to perfectly fit our base house’s bay window.

However, our first year, we found ourselves in a lumpy field dotted with wildly misshapen spruces and a few other scraggly specimens. We searched the furthest reaches of the field until it was almost dusk. Refusing to give up, we were determined to find our tree that afternoon. As we traipsed the weedy, tangled grove, our standards dwindled with the remaining sunlight.

Wanting to get the whole ordeal over with, we settled on a particularly painful blue spruce that we found down in a gulch at the edge of the farmer’s property. No sooner did we hand back the farmer’s bowsaw, along with the agreed-upon $35, than needles began to fall from our “fresh-cut” tree.

There were needles on our clothes, on the top of our minivan, inside our minivan, on our driveway, on our sidewalk, in our kitchen, down our hallway, across our living room, and scattered on the floor under the bay window. Even after the lights, ornaments and angel were in place, our “fresh” tree continued to drop its sharp foliage, which somehow made its way onto our dog, inside our presents, in our boots, on the bookshelf, imbedded into our oriental rug, and remarkably, into a pot of spaghetti sauce.

By the time the holidays were over, and we took the decorations off of our tree, there were more needles on our carpet than attached to the spruce’s brittle, curled branches.

We finally dumped that most unfortunate tree at the curb outside our base house a few days after New Year’s Eve. Not wanting to appear too needy, I wondered whether I should betray my ShopVac, and tackle the mountain of needles with a snow shovel or a bulldozer.

But I was only kidding myself - I knew he was the only one who could deliver the satisfaction I needed. Day after day, night after night, I faithfully rendezvoused with my beloved ShopVac until he found every needle in my haystack.

Thankfully, our family found a better Christmas tree farm next year. Although this year’s fir has managed to die a slower death than that infamously sickly Blue Spruce, I will still seek the affectionate assistance of my beloved ShopVac once all the decorations have been taken down.

Along with all the fuzz balls, dog hairs, candy cane bits, peanuts, tinsel, cookie crumbs and, yes, pine needles vacuumed up over the years, my ShopVac has sucked me in for good.

Read more at themeatandpotatoesoflife.com, and in Lisa’s book, The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com. Email: meatandpotatoesoflife@gmail.com

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