Stopping by woods, and killing a tree

A perfect day to kill a tree, today. Blue sky, five inches of snow packed on the ground with a tiny coating of fresh snow from last night, making everything fresh as frosting. No wind really. Cold but warming up as the hours pass. A perfect day.

Less than a mile from our house is a lovely little tree farm, where they grow acres of trees, carefully tended and replaced when cut down. It is a small family farm that is known hereabouts for growing the best fresh corn in the state during summer.

Since the farm is so close, we decided to walk this year and pull our red wagon behind us to carry the tree home. We also invited a family from our church to join us for the outing. The menfolk rode in the friend’s car while the women and children walked. (Hmmm.) The children were eager to get up the hill and begin hunting for the perfect tree.

We rode the tractor trailer up the hill after waiting for a while for the guys (who had decided they had plenty of time for coffee and chatting, thinking we would take a good deal longer to arrive at the farm than it actually took). As we rode up the hill, we saw the minivan pull in and we all waved at the dads! Once dropped off, it was time for snowballs and running and rolling in the white stuff. Oh, and looking for trees, I guess, too.

Our friends found a tree right away that their kids liked (putting it mildly). But we moms insisted on looking further. I knew that the trees that suited our family best were up at the far corner of the fields. My pal followed along. The dads kept an eye on the kids (who were hard to miss since they were throwing snowballs at the dads). Once on the other end of the farm, I found a stand of trees with several possibilities. I am particular about my Christmas tress. We have a good many ornaments that are on the heavy side, so we need a tree with a few hefty branches. Also, I like there to be a few spaces between branch layers so the ornaments can actually hang straight down and be seen.

My friend didn’t see any that fit her ideal and soon headed back to the kids. And, wouldn’t you know it, they ended up getting that first tree her children, well, fell in LOVE with. Their daughter had named it Chubby. “You have to get a tree once you name it!” she informed her mother.

My husband and son eventually found their way up to my locale. We looked at a few possibilities. This year for the first time ever, I think, I actually rememebered that we always get a tree that’s too tall, that trees in the forest look smaller than trees in houses. We picked, therefore, the shorter of our two remaining choices. Of course, that’s not the end of it. We had to find a guy to cut it down (they saw it for you so it’s done right). Then we had to carry it down to the tractor road to get it down the hill. Oh, and we had to find our friends. That part was easy. They were hanging out with Chubby, who looked a bit skinnier lying on the snowy bank.

When the tractor came, they piled us in plus another family, three trees in all and nine people. We bounced and laughed all the way down the hill, breathing in the fresh scent of newly-chopped fir. Then came my favorite part. The farmhands stand the tree up in a contraption and turn on a button and the tree quivers around like a giant ghost is trying to shake all the needles off. This shake-o-matic thingey is the best, and I mean BEST, part about going to this farm. It takes a good couple of weeks before any needles hit my carpet once that machine is done with the tree!

Waiting for Chubby to get his shake-down, our little friend asked my son, “What’s you tree’s name?”

He didn’t skip a beat. “Jimmy.”

We returned home triumphant, tree — er, Jimmy — in tow. Slurped hot cocoa with mini-marshmallows. Polished off the remaining gingerbread cookies baked on Monday’s snow day. Listened to Elvis Presley’s Christmas album. And decided to celebrate Christmas Eve together since neither of our families will be spending the holiday with relatives. Kid-friendly church service at 4 p.m. and then supper (we will do potluck since we both have Christmas Eve favorites that we want to make and eat). Then we moms will return to church for the 8 p.m. candlelight and carols service while the dads do dishes. Agreed!

Yes, a perfect day for tree hunting. Yet always the tug of the heart and the swallowing down of the bubbling grief. Can’t call Grandma and share it with her. Poor Grandma. She would have loved to hear of our perfect snowy morning at the farm.

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