Sunday, November 25, 2012

the perfect christmas tree

if you've seen national lampoon's classic movie, christmas vacation, chances are you probably remember the scene where the family goes deep into the wilderness in search of the perfect christmas tree, right?  

and you probably remember the part where clark griswold, in his great christmas optimism, attempts to persuade his reluctant family:

"We're kicking off our fun old fashion family Christmas by heading out into the country in the old front-wheel drive sleigh to embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select that most important of Christmas symbols. "

it was a mission.  

an adventure. 
an opportunity for extreme family bonding.  
oh yes, yes it was.

Ellen: Clark, Audrey's frozen from the waist down. 

Clark: That's all part of the experience, honey.

it has always been a mcnatt tradition to get our christmas tree(s) the day after thanksgiving.  it's what we do.  it's what we've always done.  the turkey and trimmings are put away.  dishes washed.  thanks given and off we go.  the christmas tree hunt ensues and the christmas season officially begins!

and living in minnesota didn't change the plan one bit.

except that sometime on thursday, in the middle of thanksgiving dinner, winter showed up. wednesday we were in the 60s but by thursday night, we had dropped to the low 20s.  friday dawned and the sun shone, but the cold stayed strong.

we had heard about a place a little ways a way. we aren't all that far from wilderness where we are living now, so off we went, heading down a cold country road.  yukon bouncing along. kids excited in the back.  seat warmers on.  spirits bright. expectations high. we were heading out into the great outdoors for our great [indoor] christmas tree. we all felt it, christmas had begun.  even little bella kept asking me, "is it christmas yet, mama? is this christmas now, mama?"

 z's trees.  that's where we were headed.  (along with everyone else in minnesota).

we hopped out of the car.  kids running everywhere.  it was then that i noticed connor had no hat and only his thin fall-weather jacket.  where was his winter coat?  oh shoot. at the same time, i realized rick had no hat or gloves either. and emily had decided to go only with the layered look and a flimsy headband.  sarah had a good coat on, but informed me quickly she had forgotten her gloves on the kitchen table back home.  

we started to look at the lot of cut trees, that was all we had really planned to do, just browse the christmas tree selection (indoors).  but then, all of a sudden, there was this tractor with a wagon attached and people began to climb up onto it. and the cut tree picking in the indoor section was actually kind of slim and the wagon, of course, looked like an adventure.  and, well, you know how the mcnatt family feels about adventure.  before we knew it, we were all up on that wagon bed huddled together on hard plank benches.

how far were we going?  what were we really doing?  how long would this take? exactly how cold was it out there, anyway? and most importantly, was there shelter?  these were just some of the questions we never thought to ask.

the tractor began to move and the wind to whip.  and all of a sudden, i couldn't believe how cold it was.  heads bent and shoulders hunched we all wiggled closer together. christmas adventure, my freezing foot! what the heck had we gotten ourselves into?  it was then that i saw a family of four across the hay bales.  they were all decked out in incredible cold weather gear. there wasn't an item on their warm bodies which didn't boast some  serious outdoor logo.  the dad had on some kind of camo winter boots (my husband was wearing loafers), the mom and kids were wearing snow pants, they all had high tech gloves, high tech everything. they looked smug. they looked warm.  the mom was taking pictures and the kids were laughing.  and we were...well, we were freezing.

miles later, the tractor stopped.  the driver announced it was time to get off.  "grab a saw from the back," he bellowed.  "i'll be back in a little while."  the other people on the wagon grabbed their children and their saws and went running off in various directions like it was some kind of christmas competition.  i looked at emily and said, "it kind of feels like we've just landed in the hunger games."  she looked at me in disbelief, "i was just thinking that same thing, mom!"  and we laughed.  our heads still bent to the wind. we were the last family standing still and before he pulled away, we asked the driver, "um, could you tell us where the really big trees are?"  he pointed in an ambiguous direction and quickly started up his tractor. there we were,  out in the wilderness.  saw in hand.  gloves on kitchen table back home. and i'm pretty sure i could hear the wind whispering, "may the odds be ever in your favor."

"okay, kids,"  rick yelled, raising the saw in battle cry, "let's go find the perfect tree!" we started our sprint.  all seven of us searching in different directions.  we carefully scrutinized tree after tree after tree.  our fingers began to numb, our cheeks to burn and our eyes to water.  rick (in his loafers) stepped into a random hole -- this was not going well.  bella, (who was really well bundled up) was also beginning to feel the cold.  but still we hunted.  there were lots of little trees....but we had our minds set.  the mcnatts wanted something big, something grand, something fabulous. something perfect. deeper into the wilderness we went.  still, no big trees.  and still no sign of the tractor.  no, there wasn't much snow, just a light dusting, but i cannot describe to you the cut of the cold and the whip of the bitter wind. what the heck had we been thinking?

at one point, emily took pity on her dad and shared her burberry plaid scarf with him, wrapping his poor head and frozen ears in her fashionable accessory.

do you remember my post from last spring when i announced we'd be moving to minnesota?  the title of that post kept running through my mind as we ran through this christmas tree farm.  "a daring adventure or something"...yes, yes indeed...this was absolutely our something.

what seemed an hour later, we finally heard the rumble of approaching tractor.  as it crested back over the hill, we still had not settled on the perfect christmas tree.  rick (in burberry scarf) looked at the kids and said, "okay kids, that's it.  back on the tractor everyone, we're going to home depot!"  

and we did.

we climbed back into our car, cranked up the heat, turned on the seat warmers and laughed about our little adventure. we laughed all the way back to civilization and back to the neighborhood home depot.

the selection of trees was enormous.  hundreds and hundreds of gorgeous trees everywhere, with little signs and nice price tags, arranged by height and type.  emily, running through the aisles, opened her arms wide and yelled, "look mom...look at all the trees!" in a dramatic gesture of relief she began to hug a large tree and continued on, "oh how i love the great mass production of trees!" all of the kids ran into the garden center cheering and swirling. within ten minutes we had picked out two trees, some garland, winter berries and a wreath.  five super nice home depot guys attached the largest tree to the roof, laughing as they did so.  they kept calling our tree, "big boy."  i, of course, stuck my head out the window and told the men we had just moved from georgia.  they laughed even harder.  "well, get ready for winter then, because it's a coming!" one guy said with a big smile.  we pulled away and they waved and genuinely wished us well.  we waved back, happy and laughing and satisfied we had had our little family adventure and we had, indeed, found the perfect christmas tree. 

so, what's this blog post really about?  what's the take away? what's the lesson learned? are we to forgo all adventure and instead keep it simple? keep it safe?  are we never to head out to the country or climb up on a wagon without first having a plan?  


you know i am not saying that -- not at all.

but i am going to suggest, sometimes you can climb yourself right into a little bit of an adventure and come back empty handed -- empty handed at first glance, that is. you may not accomplish what you set out to do, but you just may come home holding something else.  something unexpected.  maybe even something better.

a story.  some laughter. a moment.  a memory.  

and it doesn't get any more perfect than that.

the kids got their hot chocolate

and mommy got to photograph some great farms!


Laura said...

Don't feel bad my family did the same thing years ago except we ended up in the rain. Couldn't find a tree so we drove an hour back home to check out the local tree vendors. I am particular when it comes to the size and shape of a Christmas tree so it has to be just right!!

Aus said...

Happy Thanksgiving y'all - and thanks for sharing the adventure! And remember - a couple blankets and water bottles and candy bars in each car too - and no less than 1/2 tank of gas ever during the winter - this from a guy who used to live in Michigan - it's not prudent to live in the great north without them - storms come from everywhere - anytime - and without warning - and once off the road hunkering down, staying warm and hydrated while you wait for help is important!

hugs - aus and co.