For our family’s first 11 Christmases, shopping for the Christmas tree meant taking the bargain route. On the Friday after Thanksgiving, the local Farm King stores run a coupon in their sale flyer: Christmas trees for $9.99, if you spend $25 in the store. And who doesn’t need $25 worth of somethinaruther from Farm King? Some L.A. 200, a few ear tags, bolts, whatever – it wasn’t hard to come up with something for $25 and the bargain tree was ours.
And the trees weren’t so bad, if you don’t count that one that was actually painted green. (I’m not kidding – we thought it was awfully pretty. Then we saw the greenish spots on the trunk where it’d been green-washed. Mystery of the strangely beautiful tree solved.) There were also the years when we chose the tree in the dark because that was the only time we could get there. And over time, picking out the best tree Farm King had to offer became a tradition of its own for us.
But not this year. We decided that with: A) children who were getting old enough to relish the tree farm experience, and B) a larger living room to accommodate a bigger tree, it was time to branch out. We were going for the experience this year – tromp about, choose The Tree, cut it down and bring it home. Cue the Christmas music.
This is where the “experience” ended.
Last Wednesday, as we compulsively checked the weather for signs of a return to harvest, it hit us that that day might be our only shot. It was still raining on Wednesday, off and on, but the weather was to clear the next day, on Thanksgiving, and be clear for the next week to 10 days. The tree farm obviously wasn’t open on Thanksgiving, and we’d be combining from Friday onward. That left us with Wednesday.
Hopes of clearing skies vanished as we drove to the tree farm. The sky had that overcast, completely gray look that gave away its ability to dump buckets of rain, with no foreseeable end in sight. Or in other words, it’d been raining for a long time and it wasn’t going to quit anytime soon. We arrived, with mudboots, raincoats and an umbrella to hold over the toddler. The tree farm folks looked at us like we were a little crazy. Clearly, they were a little right.
I couldn’t help but think - as I held an umbrella in one hand, a toddler in the other while attempting to convince her to leave her hat and mittens on – that this was just one more way the 2009 harvest has screwed up our lives. And I say that in the most loving way possible. But it’s true. Harvest is always enjoyable, at least at first. But that ended two months ago, and we’ve only been combining for six weeks. Economics be darned, this thing has drug on and drug on and everyone’s tired and cranky. Tired of the mud, tired of wet corn, tired of rain. We can’t even cut down a tree without Griswold-like proportions.
In the end, we did find a very nice (though very wet) tree, we stopped for pizza on the way home and 4-year-old Nathan learned that he can’t kneel down on wet, muddy ground to watch Dad cut down the tree without getting wet, muddy knees. Not that it will stop him next time. And Farm King? Not looking so bad after all…
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