Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in the mountains. Every year during the holiday season, she looked forward to packing the car with rope, donning her snow boots and gloves, and heading to the Christmas tree farm with her Daddy.
This year was no exception - as she excitedly ran out the door, her Mommy called after her, "Now don't you get a tree that's too big!" Her mouth was pursed but her eyes were twinkling, and the little girl said to her, "We're going to get the biggest tree we can find!" And she dashed off to the garage after her Dad.
She and her Daddy drove down the curvy roads, twisting and turning. The girl looked at the gray sky with hope - the thought of the big snow storm rolling in tonight made her tummy flutter with butterflies.
They turned up a dirt road, following the rustic wood signs with red lettering. As the car reached the top of the hill, the girl could see acres and acres of Blue Spruce trees - tall and skinny, among many others. The Blue Spruce was their tree. Mom preferred short and fat trees, but she and her Daddy almost always chose a spruce. The taller, the better.
The old man who owned the farm handed them a saw and they headed down the path, toward the big trees. They passed many a worthy short, fat tree. She remembered her mother's words, playfully cautioning against a big tree. She smiled and walked straight towards a regal, elegant spruce. With perfect proportions it stood, its elegantly spaced limbs poised for dangling ornaments and twinkle lights. This was it. Her Daddy pulled out his measuring tape and saw that it was inches short of their ceiling clearance. He smiled and chuckled, "Your Mom's not going to like this! But we can fit in in the house." The little girl thanked the tree for its beauty and rich, spicy smell, and held its trunk as her Daddy cut it down.
Up the trail they carried it - it took all of her effort, her being such a small girl and the tree being just the opposite - but together they made it to the car and hoisted it on the roof. Not too many words were said between father and daughter, but good feelings about a task well done filled the cab of the car as they drove back home.
It started snowing, and by the time they got home it was freezing and windy. With much effort, they carried the tree inside and secured it in the tree stand.
An incredulous and smiling mother stood by, saying things like, "Oh, you two!" and "Every year without fail!" She had hot chocolate on the stove, Christmas carols on the stereo, and a fire in the wood stove. The boxes of Christmas decorations were spread across the couch, waiting to be opened. The little girl liked Christmas Tree Day nearly as much as Christmas Day itself.
I told a similar story to Finn as we went out in search of our tree in the North Carolina Piedmont. It was a special day. The Daddy in that story? My Dad, Finn's Papa. Papa was with us this year as we found our tree. In fact, he likely will be for many, many more Tree Days, now that my parents live nearby.
I'm still on a quest for the idyllic tree hunt of my youth. Let's just say that real Christmas trees don't really grow where I live. Isn't it funny that these cypress are heavily pruned to make them look like a tree? To me, they still look like bushes. We ended up with an Eastern Red Pine - and my Mom would be proud. It's a rotund tree. But I like it just fine.
No matter how you get your tree, it's always a magical time, at least in the eyes of a child.