Tree Hunting Day
Saturday, my husband will load chains and shovels into the truck while Iāll pack chocolate chip cookies, Christmas tapes, and lots of extra clothes. The rugrats āforgetā to do their chores and Dad roars but soon everyone is squeezed into a battered pickup truck. And we’re off.
We meet at the parking lot at the foot of the mountains where family, and friends as close as family, have been gathering for almost 30 years. Someone is sure to be late and someone is sure to forget something but hot chocolate (for the skinny ones) and chatting make waiting wonderful.
Then weāre off to rolling brown hillsāway up curvy roads to Public lands with our tree permits in the glove box. And there will be snow (usually) and the best trees and bigger cousins with snowboards and giggly girls with inner tubes like giant donuts and everyone will share.
Grownups tramp off for hours in order to find the right tree. Grandmas will worry that someone will be lost and not found but it never happens. Then everyone will eat hot chili from a Crock pot wrapped ’round with old red towels from when I was a little girl. Someone will be sure to make jokes about beans and gas. Someone will break out the cookies. And everyone will be sure to have one of the little sushi like things that somebody’s friend broughtā¦ and it will still taste like Christmas.
Everyone will start to worry about my husband ’cause he isn’t back yet but then he shows up with 2 trees dragging feather marks in the snow–one for us and one for his mom. And Pop will pass him a little flask of something and heāll laugh and say, “That sure hits the spot.”
Then we’ll drive home making as many stops as possible to show off our trees and prolong the merriment.
In the quiet that follows the last house before home, the oldest little one said when he was about twelve, “That was better than Disneyland.” And my husband reached over and quietly pressed my hand in a Morse code that said, “Don’t we have a good life?” And I choked up and had to eat the last chocolate chip cookie so I wouldnāt cry.
Now the oldest little one is seventeen, sometimes mistaken for Bigfoot, and definitely not sentimental. And my husband has less hair and I have more bum but we still get excited about Tree Hunting Day. For if it doesn’t happen exactly that way every Christmas, it happens almost exactly that way.
And it happens that way in our hearts.