Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hunting The Perfect Christmas Tree

I love to decorate for Christmas.

But I prefer to do it very slowly. 

The halls of most American yuletide-loving homes are fully decked by the close of Thanksgiving weekend, but that's when I'm just beginning my process. Armed with bits of paper, tree branches, fishing line, assorted garlands, and twinkle lights, I expect to spread the job out over the next few weeks.

Here, in day-to-day installments, is the story of how my house is getting ready for Christmas.

* * * * *

Sunday was a red-letter day in the story of my preparations for Christmas. Off we went a-hunting for that noblest item of holiday decor, the beloved Christmas tree. 

Around these parts, there is only one way to tackle this task. One must load up the car with an assortment of supplies:

mud boots,
warm jackets,
mittens and hats,
plastic bags for stashing said items on the trip home, when they are likely to be wet and muddy,
bungee cords,
ropes, and
assorted leashes and towels for one adventuresome and likely wet and muddy Irish setter.

Thus properly outfitted, the goal is to head off to the countryside, in search of a Christmas tree farm. 

For the past few years, we've been buying our trees from Bowen Christmas Tree Farm in Arlington. Beautiful scenery, nice people, gorgeous trees. I highly recommend. 

Once the car has been parked along the fields full of lush green trees, ripe for the taking, you may think that the hard part of the tree hunt is over.


The fun has just begun.

Now, each member of the family fans out across the fields, searching for their personal embodiment of the perfect Christmas tree. Strenuous debate ensues, and much marching back and forth takes place as the merits of each specimen is evaluated. Tempers occasionally flare. But the annual argument is eventually settled, and my husband ends up crouched under a skirt of lush green branches, jagged-tooth saw in hand, laying claim to the tree of our dreams.

No need to bring your own saw; these aqua cuties are available for your tree-procuring use. 

This decision-making pageant has been playing out in our family life every since my first-born was old enough to point and squeal. However, for many years, I have been absent from the process because my primary task has been to herd along the babies and tiniest toddlers of the group.  

As key tree-selection decisions were made, I was often to be found swaying a sleeping baby in a front pack, following a wobbly one-year-old who was intent upon exploring, or even back at the car, changing a diaper in the brisk winter air. 

And as I patiently attended to these diversionary but important matters, my thoughts often drifted to the future. Someday, I thought, my helpless little babies will be all grown up, and I will be able to help choose the tree too.

Did I mention that dogs are welcome at the farm? 

Sure enough, the years did flash by, and soon, no one needed me to wipe their nose or slip their boot back on. But now, I found myself managing a tempest of hot teenage emotions. Soothing hurt feelings, calming upset tempers, and reminding whoever was most upset that every tree was beautiful in its own way, and once we get all the decorations on, the uneven branches/crooked trunk/ugly needles/spindly top will not look so bad after all - these were my duties as others deliberated over the tree. 

And in the back of my mind, I reminded myself, someday my angsty teenage daughters will be all grown up, and I will be able to help choose the tree too.

Red door, red dog. 

More years passed, and sure enough, my little girls have grown into reasonable, negotiation-savvy young adults. Through the art of compromise, all four daughters as well as my husband, have learned to work through their aesthetic differences to find contentment and satisfaction with the group decision.

So surely, I am finally free to participate in the selection process, right?

What distraction could possibly keep me from focusing all my energy and attention on choosing a prime specimen for our holiday display?

"I'm in heaven."


This guy.

Because, trust me, the most delicious and exciting temptations to a hunting dog are the scents and scenes of a wild forest clearing. 

So instead of mulling over the pros and cons of several dozen trees, and playing a part in our family tree selection festivities, my job nowadays is to meander along the perimeter of the farm, where the brush just begins to grow deep against the forest, following behind my delighted, exuberant Ranger, who is having the time of his life. 

Someday. Someday, I may actually help pick out a Christmas tree. But for now, I will count my golden blessings for all the precious distractions. 

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