Trimming the Tree

Saturday morning, I could barely conceal my glee—nix that. I didn’t conceal it at all! We were going to cut down our own tree. I grew up with a real tree year after year, and the artificial sort just doesn’t do it for me. We would always go after school the first Friday in December, my family and I. Charlie and I would be little Michelin Men in our snowsuits (we used to get much more snow way back when, our first snow fort dug out by Thanksgiving!) and the four of us would squeeze into the cab of Dad’s old pickup truck. Mom would lead us in a round of Christmas jingles and we would take turns telling each other what we were most grateful for. Always, we said family.

The light would dim as we made our way to the tree farm of choice, and the four of us would pile out in the thick snow to look for the perfect tree. We always found it. Charlie and I would grab onto the tree as Dad carried it down to feel like we were helping and we watched in glassy-eyed awe as they secured it to the truck. By then it was dark and we were numb with cold. Gratefully, we crammed back into the cab of the truck with the heat blasting.

At home, Bing Crosby crooned as Mom warmed milk on the stove for hot chocolate with candy cane stir-sticks. I looked forward to it year after year. This year, I looked to reclaim that feeling of absolute wonderment and warmth. Nick and I traipsed out Saturday morning. Earlier in the week I exclaimed, “Oh no! I don’t have winter boots!” Nick reminded me that there was no snow on the ground. Oh, yeah.

We weaved along the lines of spruces and I hopped sporadically, unable to contain the thrill. Just as we found THE ONE, the snow began to fall. I flopped my head back and stuck out my tongue, hoping to catch a flake. Back at home, I wish I had heeded my mother’s advice that trees always look smaller in a forest than in a living room, as our tree exceeded the height of the ceiling by ten inches.

We set it up on Saturday, monitoring Sophie to see how destructive she was going to be. We left it undecorated that first day, hoping to ease her into the newness of it all. The lingering presence of evergreen was hypnotic and I was light in carefree in the memories of Christmases passed. Sophie was mostly good, but not so much that we didn’t keep a spray bottle at hand’s reach. Sunday, we decorated.

As was evidently clear during the initial phases of trimming, Sophie would be a holy terror with the decorations, the gold beading in particular. This in mind, we have a “mostly” decorated tree, the bottom void of anything that might tempt the cat to wreak havoc. As you can see from the picture, she’s at the bottom waiting for a moment when nobody is watching to get into a little mischief.

I set up the nativity scene in made for my mother seventeen years ago, much to Nick’s chagrin. (I am not sure where his dislike of nativity scenes stems, but I will have none of it.) Besides, mine is beautiful, if I do say so myself. Boughs adorn the stair railing and the large window, and we have received our first Christmas card. Saturday, we received up to a foot of accumulated snow and I am recording Nestor tonight on the Family Channel. I love the build-up—LOVE!