Yes, I know it isn't even Thanksgiving yet, but it was so warm out yesterday (70 in town, 65 up on the mountain) and someone said it was going to snow Wednesday, so I figured I should get one while the getting was good. I drove up to King's Tree farm after I got finished working on my day off. They seemed surprised to see me, I guess most everyone waits till after the turkey is roasted.... "You got any Hemlocks?" I asked, and the man seemed dismayed. "You don't want one of those, the needles start falling as soon as you cut them!" So maybe one year when I'm running super late I might get my dreamy fernlike tree, but I decided against it this year.
I had the whole place to myself. It was a nice safe place to walk considering most of my favorite trails wind through prime hunting territory. Not one hunter, not a soul except the tree man moved through the farm. He was busy driving his cool little Bobcat around, smoothing the tracks and spreading gravel in preparation for the onslaught of tree shoppers in their family cars and pickup trucks and SUVs.
The fields change from year to year, as mature trees are harvested and new ones planted. I got lost, sort of, just like I like to do, wandering from field to field. Here the Scotch Pines, there the Blue and Norway Spruce. White Pine, which is soft and pretty in it's own fuzzy way, I avoided. The Frazier Fir field is still relatively young, and I stayed out of it this year. After about an hour of wandering through the neat lines of trees, picking up stray pinecones, brushing my hands over the soft or prickly boughs of a hundred or more trees, I found one that wanted to come home with me. With my handy folding saw I cut it down, all by myself. Not difficult at all, kneeling on the damp leaf covered ground in my Sunny Day skirt I sawed back and forth, back and forth, till only an inch of trunk remained - then I pushed it over with ease and sawed the rest of the way through. Dragging it back to the car, the needles scratched my calves with every step. A Norway Spruce, the tree man said. It cost $42, a little more than the trees at the Kroger, but worth every penny.
Memories of years past chased me around every corner. Little Delia, about 6, throwing snow, eating snow, and then throwing some more. Pregnant Lisa, carrying the unborn Pippa in her belly through the rows of trees in late autumn to pick one out for later cutting, since we were pretty sure she wasn't going to be heading out there once the baby came. Snow play with Kira and Piper, the year Steve and Sarah came with us to cut down a tree. Last year, with Pippa in her smart coat and tiny Iris in the baby carrier. And every year, for the last, well, almost a decade, my husband with his saw, patiently waiting for me to give one tree the honor of being our family Christmas tree. As good as the Griswold's. Sigh.
This year, I took that tree home to my new apartment, spare and full of light, and I put it into the magic EZ Up tree stand I found at Lucky's Attic on one of the thrifting trips Mark and I make almost every week. It really was easy, I did it myself. Then I donned my long leather Lighting gloves, and wound the pink lights around it like my father taught me how to do. I thought of him, I thought of my girls, who were both off in their other lives - Becca with her mother and Delia with her father. I dressed the tree with birds and butterflies, and stars, in pink and white and silver. All the ornaments are new, I haven't had the energy or the heart to go about splitting up seventeen years of Christmases Past with my husband.
Mark came over later that evening and admired my work. We hung the little sisal hedgehogs, and bronze glitter pinecones, and snowy owls covered in glitter. We played the vinyl records he'd picked up at the indoor flea market, and we laughed at them, all warped and creepy sounding, one after the other they went into the trash. Then we drove up to WalMart and found some CDs in the $5 bin and came back to sing and dance in the kitchen with Burl Ives, laughing at ourselves and our terrible dance moves the whole time. He went home to prepare as best he could for a stressful hearing the next day, and I fell asleep in my bed, christmas lights glittering in the next room.