When I was a little girl, my father and I would go to the Christmas Tree lot near our house, and pick out the family Christmas tree. My mom would strongly encourage us to get a tree that would fit in our family room. But my dad and I had other ideas. I mean, c’mon. It’s Christmas.
Sure, we’d look at the six-foot trees. We’d look at those skinny ones. Those would fit nicely. And then…and THEN we’d see it. The tree. It was big. It was wide. It was…dare I say…grandiose. Obnoxious even? But my dad and I were jubilant. We were so excited to get that tree home and cover it in tinsel, garland and all things homemade ornaments.
Even as I got older, moved out on my own and had my own tree…my dad and I would still go to the Christmas Tree lot and pick out a big ‘ole tree together for my folk’s house. I looked forward to that every year.
And when I became a mom, I couldn’t wait to take them to the tree lot and pick out a tree together. When the kids were a little older and could understand the magnificence of this moment, once we found “our” tree, we’d hug it – therefore making it our own. And then we’d sing the song from The Grinch…”dahoo dores, bahoo bores welcome, welcome Christmas Day.” No, those aren’t the words, but does anyone really know them?
Fast forward to this year. My kids are now 17, 15 and 12. They’re not littles anymore. My oldest has a girlfriend. My middle is enthralled in all things gaming, and my 12 year old didn’t seem as enthusiastic as she did in years past, when Santa was on her mind from Thanksgiving until the soot footprints appeared from the fireplace to the Christmas tree.
We decided to get our tree on Sunday night, the first weekend after Thanksgiving. My oldest had been out with his girlfriend, and I didn’t know whether he’d want to end the date early, to pick out a tree with us. My middle was in his room, saving the world with his gaming expertise, and my daughter was playing Roblox.
“We’re getting the tree tonight.” I said, popping my head into my son’s room. And then texting my oldest, “we’re getting the tree, if you wanna come” I hit “send” and hoped the answer would be “yes.”
And much to my surprise, within 15 minutes, the kids were gathered in the kitchen with hats and coats and excitement!
We drove to our annual spot. We drove up in anticipation, talking about the 9-foot tree we were looking forward to getting. Complete Darkness. Closed.
I thought the kids would want to rush back home, but instead we voted to go to another place down the street. It was open. We walked through the crisp night air, holiday music blaring from the speakers. We looked at every tree in the lot. Nope. Our tree wasn’t here.
Piling back into the car, I wondered if we should just call it a night and try again later in the week. But the kids were all in. We drove through our town, and into another town, where we knew of another Christmas tree place. Pulling into the empty parking lot, I thought for sure it was closed, but the lights were on and Christmas music was playing.
The lot was filled with trees, sorted by size. The kids were scattered. “Look at this one!” “Wait, look at this one!” Each tree was more beautiful than the last. And then…we found it. Our tree. Did we hug it? Absolutely. Did we sing? Not this time. Perhaps it was too cold, or perhaps it was because the kids are too mature for such silliness. But did I sing it in my head? Not gonna lie…I totally did.
With every ornament hung, there was a story. There was a memory attached. And as we decorated the tree, I was struck by how fast the years have gone by. Not just how fast the kids have grown, but I thought about my dad. I thought about all the years we went to pick out the tree together. I thought about all the traditions my folks passed down to me.
And when my folks come to see our tree, I will give my dad an extra tight squeeze. And he’ll know, in that moment, that I remember.