We get the tree early this year, the first weekend of December. Normally we would get it the second weekend, but Curry will be away that weekend and the third weekend seems too close to Christmas. It’s a busy weekend. The kids and I spend Saturday morning at the Make-A-Craft fair at school, me helping elementary school kids sew tiny clothes onto bent-pipe-cleaner people, and them dominating the cookie decorating table ,piling frosting, sprinkles and candy so thickly that there’s not trace of the cookie. They’ll spend Sunday morning at their grandparents’, followed by our town’s tree-lighting ceremony.
So we squeeze getting the tree into the interstices, like so many other things, late Saturday afternoon. In an attempt to get into a festive mood, I don my long red-white-and-green wool hat, though it’s nearly 40 degrees out.
The woods are green and mossy and the evergreen trees stand out against the bare gray trunks of their deciduous cousins. Only the beeches retain their brittle copper leaves. E and Z greet every green tree with cries of “How about this one? This one?” I feel unsettled, cranky. It is too early. There should be snow. We have nowhere to put a tree. When will we decorate?
C and M have already identified a few possibilities in the fir grove, and we begin the process we have gone through every year since our first Christmas together 14 years ago, assessing and evaluating the merits of different specimens until the Right Tree emerges. As usual, we see quite a few that will be just right in a year or two. C points out a hemlock and a white pine. An old joke that for years I pleaded for another variety of tree while he always insisted a Christmas tree must be balsam fir or nothing.
Everything looks different without snow. I see the wet hollow where someone usually crashes through thin ice hidden under the snow and gets a wet food. Today it is thick with leaves. Without the difficulty of walking through deep snow, we cover more ground than normal and inspect more trees. We begin to narrow in on the right tree. Z sings “O Christmas Tree.” M insists that the perfect tree is the “one back over there.” I imagine trying to have this same experience in a parking lot filled with pre-cut trees.
We hold hands around our chosen tree, sing “O Christmas Tree,” and thank the tree for giving its life to make our winter brighter.
Z helps cut the stem and C hoists it onto his shoulder.
We stop along the trail just before home to cut down a smaller fir to set up in the boys’ room. M cuts the trunk while C holds the tree. I glance up to see that E and Z have each taken an end of the big tree and are carrying home, still singing.