The boys were too excited to wait any longer. And truth be told, my wife and I were too. This is the first Christmas where both boys are aged in the “magic” years, between about 2-7. The age when everything about the season has a real weight to it. It is an age when the excitement of seeing an 8 foot inflated snowman, has the vocal equivalent of seeing Publisher’s Clearinghouse arriving with the balloons at your door. The age when Santa’s invisible all seeing powers is the trump card all parents get for at least a couple weeks. A time of year when the absolute pinnacle of your day, is opening a tiny paper door on a calendar that only goes to 25.
So we decided to get the tree earlier than normal. Not before Thanksgiving, but the first full weekend in December. Because the house is so small, the tree tends to be smaller, and we have it down to a science, over the course of 1 1/2 hours we can transform the entirety of the house into the holiday spirit.
Since my wife holds the title of chief interior decorator, she has had rights to the type of tree we get. It has always been the tree of her childhood: the Noble Fir. We went to the little farm lot that we have the past three out of four years. A family venture from just outside of town that gives you free honey with your tree, and mini candy canes for the kids. We squeezed our way through tree packed isles, and I was struck with a sudden realization that most of the nobles were much larger than we could fit. And there we’re not many options for the smaller ones. Finally, my wife had me pull out a 6 foot one for viewing. A sturdy little fellow from the first two feet up, and the first 3 feet down.
And one foot smack in the middle with no branch at all.
My wife gave a laugh. “Well? Whadda you think? It’s got a bit of a gap.”
When I was a child, I remember my father taking us a couple years in a row out to a neighboring house or farm, where he would bring the bow saw and talk loudly to some people, and we would cruse up and down tracks of trees. I was very young, and besides him smoking a pipe, and wearing his best-tattered Saturday plaid wool coat, I don’t remember much else.
However one spring, my father brought home a package of some sort, and announces proudly that we would be growing our own trees from now on. He set to work, setting the children to work, clearing out a small narrow patch of land near the border to the neighbor’s fence line. After the blissfully wonderful task of clearing sumac trees (if you haven’t ever done this, it’s simply a delight) we set to work planting the little pines in neat rows down the slope.
Here’s where you may be asking, “Peter, you lived in Vermont, surely you could have gone into the forest and cut down a tree for free?”
To which I would answer in two parts:
1) You try doing that with five children. You thought Hansel and Gretel’s parents were heartless to abandon them in the woods? I guarantee that my father would be tempted to replicate with several of us.
2) A shrewd business man, I think there was a part of him that thought he could get a piece of the Christmas tree racket.
All went well for those first couple years. The Crop was thinned out a bit by natural selection via Deer or riding mower, but all in all, it seemed that we would be harvesting our own merry trees in no time.
Little by little however, the trees seemed to rebel. One of them split and grew in a big “U” Shape. Others grew tall and bushy, on the top 25%. It was then I began to wonder what magic beans my father might have bought into. They seemed to be a field of saplings gone wrong. A horrid experiment in some sort of dingy Eastern European lab, that was quickly covered up and sent off to the black market.
But, a man to his word, we grew them, any by golly; we were going to use them.
One year, it was the Christmas shrub. Another it was the one with enormous needles, and no branches. One year we chopped down a giant, and my brother had a hernia running and pulling it across the acre to the house. I believe it measured about 17 feet.
And somehow, they all ended up looking amazing. Filled with lights. Layers of ornaments collected by decades of celebrations, these freaks of trees still delivered the soft sighing comfort one gets by just sitting in a darkened room with just the tree lit, and the snow falling outside.
“I think it’s great.” I said to her.
“Me too!” said the older one wiping his runny nose on his sleeve.
“Snowman!” Yelled his brother.
And we went home, rediscovered that while they look like balls, ornaments should not be thrown, and filled our little tree to the brim.
Even the gap.