That's right. Today was the big day. Devon has asked me several times a day every day for the past week, "How many tomorrows 'til we get our Christmas tree?" Well, his wait is finally over.
We slept in this morning, then I cooked a tummy warming, thigh expanding breakfast of pancakes and bacon. We filled our tummys and then spent the next hour bundling up and loosening carseat straps so we could warmly and safely transport our crew to the tree farm.
I know there are some haters out there, (I'm looking at you, Stephanie), but it was so invigorating and well, RIGHT, to be out in the snow tramping around searching for The Perfect Tree. The first year we lived in NC, I went to the nearest corner tree lot to get a tree. It was nearly 70 degrees. I put on a sweater to get in the spirit, but I didn't need one for warmth. I remember thinking, 'This just isn't right." You see, I grew up in the north. Getting a Christmas tree was an all day snow adventure. We would bundle up in our warmest winter gear, Ski-doo suits, (snowsuits to the non-local), snowmobile boots, (this was a very specific kind of boot with a wool pull-out liner bootie, rubber shoe, nylon-zippered upper, a lace at the top to tighten it all up and keep out the snow. I think we had a pile of these and each winter each child would go through the pile and lay claim to the pair that fit them. We did the same thing with ice skates), wool mittens, crocheted scarves, toques (I think that's how you spell it, help me out north country folks and Canadians), and Mom's Army issue wool snow pants and parka. No, she was not in the Army. Where did you get them, Mom? We would load up sleds, skis, baling twine, six kids, and Mom and Dad in the station wagon and head up to The Old Place. "The Old Place" was ten minutes up the road to a dirt road leading back into the woods. Here was where my father had lived as a child. Throughout my youth and sometimes still, my Dad referred to it lovingly as The Old Place. When we arrived at the dirt road we would stop, unload, and hook tow-ropes up to the trailer-hitch and bumper. To the other end we would attach sleds for the little kids and the bigger kids would take turns skiing behind the car. The road was usually plowed a bit, but never really scraped and certainly not salted or sanded. It was perfect for our entertainment. How fondly I recall the exhaust in my lungs and the snow in my face. We would whiz along, stopping only when someone went tumbling out of a sled or biffed it on the skis. Oh yes, and to take a few runs down the big hill on the sleds. When we arrived at the grove of evergreens we would all tramp out into the snowy woods searching for The Perfect Tree. Of course, this was no tree farm, it was just The Woods. So there was no such thing as The Perfect Tree. We just wandered around and around, knocking billows of snow off branches hoping to find The Perfectest Tree Possible. As far as I can remember, this always meant topping a tree because they had all grown far beyond living room size. So we would gaze up at the tops of the trees until my Mother and Bryan (my oldest brother) were satisfied we had found The Best Possible Tree Top. Then Dad or Bryan would climb up and cut it down. You know, when you're looking up at a pine tree, it looks pretty full and well-rounded. Funny they never seemed to look that way in our living room. We would drag the tree out to the car, strap it on, and then sled and ski our way back out to the main road. After allowing the tree to dry on the porch for a couple days, we would empty the bathroom garbage can, an orange and white vertically striped heavy duty plastic number, and place our tree in it. We used it as a tree bucket for as long as I can remember. Then we would get out the fishing line and Dad would string it up in the corner. This was a touchy business, the tree tipping from side to side and never really truly secure. After the stringing up, it was Mom's responsibility to untangle and check all the lights. I remember how irritated my Mom would get with this. They would never just all light up on the first try. She would get them all untangled and then try each bulb to find the one that was out. On each strand. With six kids running around dying to get to the decorating part. oh, my mother is a saint. I pretty much just have to light them up and wrap them around my tree and I STILL am ready to lose it by the time I'm done. But eventually she would prevail and the big C9 lights would be wrapped beautifully around the tree and then we would decorate. We always had that very 1970s tinsel garland. And as if that wasn't enough, we also had the string tinsel you lay on the branches. We had tinsel balls, too. One for each of us kids. We would throw them on at the end, altogether.
My mother loved the Christmas tree. She stills does. We didn't have a TV when I was kid. We would watch the tree. My Mom would lie under the tree with us, looking up through the boughs. She would peel oranges for us and we would sit by the tree and eat oranges. Still the mingled scent of oranges and evergreen transports me back to our family room Christmas tree. And always, ALWAYS, in the background Christmas music would be playing on our old record player. The Christmas tree was magic. Pure Christmas magic. I loved to watch the ornaments catch the light. I loved to bring my Barbie Dolls down and imagine wonderful stories for them in the glow of the tree. My mother showed us the magic and the peace of being still and feeling Christmas. What a precious gift.
But now, look at this. The time is far spent and I haven't even told you what I set out to tell- the story of THIS year's tree. I'll let the pictures do the telling, I guess.