Back when I was in college (which now is seeming oh, so long ago) I had a dear friend who went with her family every year to their cabin in Bear Lake for Thanksgiving and then cut their own tree the day after Thanksgiving. It just sounded so romantically Christmas-wonderful to me and I wished we had that tradition (and a cabin in Bear Lake!)
I married Rick and we moved to Brooklyn, where we actually had our own tree tradition of sorts. Each year some guys would come down from Nova Scotia and set up a tree lot not far from our apartment. Rebekah and I would walk down and take them hot chocolate. Rebekah was learning French at the time and would "practice" on them. We'd pick a tree and wheel it home in our grocery cart and have it all set up with lights to decorate when Rick got home from work. We did that for 5 years.
Then we moved to the suburbs and I heard there was a tree farm not too far away in Connecticut where you could go and CUT YOUR OWN TREE. Every year since I have asked Rick if we can go cut out own tree. That suggestion is usually met with a sigh, a pause and a "Can't we just get it at Stew's?" Rick is a pretty good sport about most things I want to do (hello, have you seen what I get him to dress up as for Halloween!) but for some reason the thought of - as he puts it - "tromping for miles in the woods in the freezing cold just to have to cut your own tree when you find it" - isn't appealing. So we always get it at Stew's, where they have beautiful trees for a great price, trim the bottom and load it wrapped onto your car for you.
This year is our first year in our new house and I want it to be Christmas-wonderful. AND now we live in Connecticut, even closer to the tree farm. At Jacob's baptism my friend Desiree said they had gone the day before to cut their own. How was it? I asked excitedly. Her reply? "Magical!"
I started to hatch a plan to go cut our own but quickly realized that with a swim meet and basketball game, the cub scout rocket launch, a birthday party & a baby shower all the following Saturday it wasn't going to happen. The Scouts were selling trees at the church and to be (begrudgingly on my part) supportive we decided to get one from them. The kicker - because of the crazy day Rick and the kids would go and choose one without me while I was at the baby shower. Gulp. I reminded them to get the "fullest one" the one that was "the fattest around" and left.
When I got back the tree was in the house. It's pretty and tall but not at all full. I figured we'd live with it. Rick asked what I thought and I said "It's not very full" "They didn't have that many to choose from" I know - it's here, it'll be fine."
Then I called Em and asked how come she didn't finish cleaning the mud room floor "I wasn't sure if you were going to take the tree out" she said kind of gesturing with her head. Yep, the 11 yr old knew it wasn't what I wanted. I know this is ridiculous but I might have shed a few tears - which made Rick feel bad, and kind of mad. "Let's just hurry to the tree farm and get a new tree then".
I pointed out that there wasn't time because I had to get Jane to the birthday party in a couple of hours. He insisted that we could zip up there, get a tree and be back in time. I explained that it wasn't just the tree I cared about - it was the experience. Taking the kids and the dog and ambling through the woods together, getting hot chocolate after we'd chosen it and singing Christmas songs in the car on the way home (yeah, I haven't planned this out at all!) We compromised. Jane's birthday party was in our old neighborhood. While she was there I would run to Stew's and choose a fuller tree. We'd move the "scout tree" into the music room and put the new one in the family room and NEXT YEAR go to the tree farm.
Later that night when the kids were all in bed and I was vacuuming up pine needles, the primary song "Picture a Christmas" was going though my head. Especially the line "picture the little baby Jesus, think of his life and love so dear. Sing praise to him, remember him as you picture Christmas this year." I felt a bit guilty for making such a big deal over the tree and something that really is not the true meaning of Christmas. Then I thought some more - I hadn't realized that the tree meant so much to me. Why? I am
often always up late on
December nights and having the tree glowing so beautifully with
Christmas music playing in the background makes Christmas preparation
seem special rather than just work. But it was more than that. I
realized that seeing the decorations brought back pieces of Christmases
past and the kids when they were younger - their "baby's first"
ornaments, the one's made of crepe paper and glue with their smiling
pre-school faces in the middle, the glitter shedding offerings from
their babyhood. There are a few we've gathered on travels and the
collectible ornaments that I give them each year that I hope will
someday grace the trees they decorate as they establish their own
families. Our tree brings me memories - all in one place in soft glowing
peaceful lights. So, I am going to embrace the fact that I love our
tree and try to remember that it's not how we get it but what it
represents - love and family that matters most.
With that sorted out, we happily decorated it the next day while listening to Christmas music and enjoying Tim Tam slams afterwards.
And it was Magical.