Weather can be a wild card. Several of our annual outings have been blessed with falling flakes of snow, others with rare warm days of golden sunshine; the vast majority have involved raindrops and mud puddles.
Pets play a role too. On and off, our two dogs - Ranger and his predecessor, Casey - have often tagged along on our tree hunts. As their lifespans have run the gamut from puppy to oldster, their companionship has stirred in an element of surprise, from tangling their long leashes like a cat's cradle among the trees, to attempting to drag me off into the tempting forest, to greeting other dogs and small children with a feisty friendliness that requires a human filter.
Safe to say, our Christmas tree adventures are full of ups and downs and, like a kaleidoscope, an ever-changing mash-up of surprises.
This year, however, was a notable exception to that rule.
Today's outing to Bowen Tree Farm was nothing short of chill.
We quickly and smoothly came to consensus on the tree we wanted.
No one cried.
No one pouted.
No one swore.
Well. I wasn't standing close to the tree while my husband sawed it off, so you never know what might have been muttered at ground level. But I heard nary a peep.
Our morning weather started out brisk and sunny; clouds slowly rolled in while we were bundling out tree up top of the car, but the raindrops waited to fall until we were halfway home.
And Ranger? Well, Ranger was an absolute gentleman.
He wagged politely at the dozen or so toddlers who pointed at him and squealed, "Doggie!"
He waited until I invited him to walk to the edges of the clearing, and then he happily went to work, head down in the underbrush, breathing in the scents of the forest.
And while we were deep in tree-choosing negotiations, he simply lay down in the grass and waited patiently for us to finish.
Now don't get me wrong. I don't for one minute assume that our hectic years are behind us.
Heaven knows next year could bring in tornadoes and temper tantrums as never seen before.