Marty and I have never had a real live Christmas tree in our house. As a kid, my family used to go to the local garden store (Franks!) and pick out [what felt like] a ginormous tree… they’d wrap it in plastic netting for us… we’d strap it to the top of our conversion van and drive it home… and my dad would spend what felt like hours, trucking it in and out of the house, sawing and grunting and shoving until it was wedged firmly into its dinky metal tree stand. We’d water our tree with the burnt orange watering can with the long plastic spout, whenever we remembered. The needles would poke our fingers as we hung our ornaments. And then, in a few weeks, our tree would end up on our curb, waiting for the garbage truck. And then, one year (probably near the time he and my mom had kid #5), I remember going to Sears and picking out an artificial tree. I was in middle school, old enough to find the color-coded branches and shove them into their correct slots in the plastic trunk. We’d fan out the branches, and my mom would come after us, fluffing and puffing and getting it all just right. And my dad would sit in the recliner and watch, half-asleep, incredibly content with the fact that he was no longer struggling with a giant, prickly tree stump. #artificialtrees4ever
Marty and I inherited a wonky fake tree from a relative for our first Christmas (it worked), but the next year one of his clients gave him a perfectly good pre-lit tree that they couldn’t sell at a garage sale. It was free, and the lights were white, and I loved it (even if it was a little on the short side). That hand-me-down tree stuck with us for nine years, until last year, when the bottom half of the lights went out. We strung new lights on it, trying to help it along, but it looked a little strange, bright bulbs layered over burned-out bulbs.
Which leads us to this year! We decided to go LIVE! (Our kids weren’t having it at first: “Mom! What about our old tree? We love that tree!” We promised them hot chocolate and a tractor ride and they got over it.) On a neighbor’s recommendation, we ended up at Ben’s Christmas Tree Farm in Harvard, Illinois, and had the best time stomping through their fields, looking for the perfect tree. (Ok. Actually. There were lots of tears, lots of comments along the lines of this is too far to walk, carry me, I’m dying, I want all the trees and I can’t pick just one, we’re never getting out of here, etc. We had fun anyway.)
I have no idea what my kids will remember about today. The long drive? The cute little goats? The hot chocolate? The fresh smell of pine, and the really white snow? How two-year-old Lily was so tired, she lay down in the middle of the field and stared at the sky or rolled over and got stuck on her belly, while we debated over this tree or that tree? How one of the boys fell off the wagon and into a mud puddle? Or how our borrowed tree stand leaked water all over the living room floor, once we got back home?
I loved every happy, haphazard, crazy minute of today.