Family traditions are not very well established in our household; our oldest is now 8, and over those 8 years, it’s been challenging to establish norms and pathways that are age-appropriate for all involved.
Anyways, one tradition that is two years running is the act of hunting for a Christmas tree. We print off a permit, drive up into the forest hills with another family, bring hot chocolate, snacks and saws, and bring home a fresh-scented pine to occupy our home for the season…until it wilts sadly and sheds its needles and gets tossed off the deck in the New Year.
But this year, the friends weren’t available, so our forest hills were the Canadian Tire parking lot, where a local tree feller-and-seller fella had set up shop in a fenced-in area with a trailer and a dog and an axe and a beard. We pulled up in the pitch-black night of 5 pm, and emptied ourselves out of the van like the clown-car that we are.
Immediately, we dispersed, finding our preferred trees and asserting seemingly-random preferences. We moved from the $100 trees to the $40 trees, and clumps of children would form around certain trees that seemed to attract attention, where they would jump up and down in loud delight, hollering “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” in support of their deciduous decision. The adorable scene brought an affirming smile to the bearded fellow who waited for our tree choice.
We narrowed it down to two options: a $60 tree that shone a little glossier, and a $45 tree with more of a “matte finish.” Comparing heights, bushiness, and whatever other intangibles one evaluates when choosing a tree, we selected the $45 one, paid the man his money, and continued on our supposed-to-be-merry way.
A sliver of moon shone down on us, clouds obscuring it lightly with tendrils of cotton-candy fog. Pools of orange light puddled on the dark pavement. Nearby cars in the lot coughed idly as they came and went.
And like a caged wolf, our son wailed.
The howling that ensued — could we have predicted and prevented it?
The sheer force of the tantrum that followed — was there a hint that it was coming?
This was not the tree he wanted.
The ferocity was is if he was resisting an attack from a killer in the parking lot, as he fled to the van for safety.
Our saccharine family-portrait moment in front of the tree-seller became less than charming. We lashed our unwanted tree to the roof of the Sienna, and our son screamed as if it was his own body on the altar being sacrificed to the gods of Christmas.
Into the darkness, our perturbed clown-car (imagine us now with painted-on-frowns and smeared clown make-up) steered our loud-mobile away from our fake forest.
Dinner happened. Bedtime happened. No emotions were left to decorate the tree that evening, so it slouched against the wall, unadorned until morning.
When the sun finally rose the next day, while eating our breakfast next to our our slouching, naked tree, our son said, “I’m glad we choose this tree after all.”