Last weekend we went on our annual Christmas Tree expedition. This is a One Funny Motha family tradition dating back to the early days of my youth. Every December of my childhood my father and I would set out a few weeks before Christmas to the same family-run tree farm and select the best, most spectacular, fatest Douglas Fir we could find. It’s a custom I kept well into adulthood, but when I had a family of my own I needed to start the tradition anew with my children.
Since I’ve never been able to find a tree farm comprable to the one from my childhood, each year I continue in my quest for the perfect Christmas tree spot. I have yet to find it, but this year we came close. Kevin had done the research this time and said the place had an extensive tree collection, wasn’t too far from our house, and gave out free hot chocolate with every purchase. The place even offered free marshmallow roasting, and nothing says Christmas more than free marshmallow roasting. We had to go.
So we did. And the place nearly met all of my qualifications. It had the right ambiance located in a secluded, forested area not too far from our home and was anchored by a small wooden cabin selling wreaths and playing Christmas tunes. It had acres and acres of spruce, pines and firs to peruse. It allowed patrons to cut their own trees, and it had camp fires burning. It was perfect. Almost. The problem was we couldn’t find a tree.
As with finding the perfect pumpkin for Halloween, I take finding the perfect Christmas tree very seriously. It’s not a task to be taken lightly. The tree sets the tone, and without the right one the whole season is off. Kevin understands this about me, and while it has driven him mad for the better part of 17 years, he has come to a place of acceptance. So as I prowled the sprawling lot, inspecting fir tree after fir tree, hopeful that this time I’d landed on the ultimate specimen before finally rejecting it for some unacceptable flaw, Kevin and the kids patiently trudged behind.
Then I saw it. Off in the distance over in the far corner of the field on the very edge of the property stood a beautiful, shapely, rotund tree. It had a single tall spire at the top for the star and full deep green boughs with nary a bare spot to be seen.
I ran to it, bounding over the rutted field, proclaiming as I went, “This is it. This is the one.” And when I reached it, the tree did not disappoint as the others had. This Douglas Fir did not deceive the eye. It was just as it had looked from a distance – neither too short nor too sparse nor too weak to hold ornaments. Kevin raised the hand saw and allowed The Kid the first cut.
Afterward, we toasted marshmallows. Roasting marshmallows on an semi-open fire with Jack Frost nipping at your nose always helps to make the season bright, and standing there with my family in a field of fragrant firs a few days before Christmas, I turned to my kids and said, “Eat until you feel sick.” The tree was expensive, and we had to make our money back in marshmallows.
At that moment I also thought I’d take the opportunity to address another particularly vexing Christmas tradition I’d faced yearly and to which I’d recently found a solution.
Kevin loves Christmas, but even more than Christmas he loves Christmas presents. He awakes early Christmas morning, elbowing the kids out of the way as he busts into the living room, to marvel at all the presents piled under the tree for him. Yet he has never once told me what those presents should be. I try my best, once even browsing the ailes of a Home Depot when Home Depot is not the kind of place that invites browsing, but my gifts are always met with the same deep, abiding disappointment. And I’m not doing it anymore.
Sadly, that gave me no time to actually shop for the items so I’ll most likely meet with the same fate again this year. It’s too bad because I’ve spent all of my time diverting my resources to the kids when I’m starting to doubt they deserve it.
Perhaps I’ll read the piece I wrote on my son’s conversation with our Elf on the Shelf again to remind myself why they do.