I have been buying my tree from the same family every year for many years. I actually discovered them by accident when I was trying to find a special tree farm that had been written up in the local paper. I followed the directions that the paper had given, and ended up someplace different. I don't know the name of the family or even the name of the street that the house is on, but I know how to get there. And every year I do. And nearly every year, it's quite late in the season when I finally make it there.
I have been feeling as harried as usual this year, feeling like I have too much to do and like the holidays just add more, and as of this past Friday morning, the 19th, we still didn't have our tree. A huge storm was forecast for the early afternoon and the girls' school had been canceled in anticipation. I had several errands I needed to get done before we were housebound, and on the list was to get a tree. I knew if we didn't get one, it wouldn't happen all weekend 'cause we'd be buried in snow. If we did get one, we could spend a lovely afternoon decorating it as the snow fell outside. Trying to consolidate our errands, I asked the girls if they wanted to go to the farm where we often buy apples and bacon, to see if they had trees -- if they did, we could get our tree and groceries in one stop. The girls insisted that we go to the place we always go for our tree.
I drove the familiar route and arrived to see a big 'closed' sign. We also saw a man and his young daughter dragging a tree through the snow from the barn to their truck. The 8yo asked why we couldn't just do the same. As I tried to explain, the man's young daughter very sweetly said we could, that there were plenty of trees. The man was less reassuring. He said he was a distant relative and had gotten permission from the family. I decided we would go take a look at the trees in the barn. Perhaps the family would return by the time we chose one, or I could do what I do at farmstands all summer and leave the family money for the tree.
The girls and I crunched through the snow to the barn. There was a giant tree in the front of the pile, which I pulled aside. Next, was a tall, scrawny one that was good enough. The girls immediately adopted it. I pulled out one more, but they were sure that the first one I showed them was meant for us. So I dragged it back toward the car. There were a few trees right there by the house, so I took a moment to lean two of them up against the fence and put ours next to it. The two others tipped over as if to say, "You've got the one you need." It was decided.
Now I realized the really tricky part about the owners not being there: the man had always tied the tree on top of my car for me. I would have to figure out how to do it myself -- that is if I had some rope in the car. As we walked to the car with the tree, I actually thought, "I know I at least have some duct tape!" Luckily, a search through the junk on the floor of the front passenger side revealed a long rope. I hoisted the tree up, tied, and wrapped, and prayed, and eventually tucked the loose end of rope in the front passenger door. Then I wrote a note, wrapped it around ten dollars, wrapped the whole thing in a drawing of a cardinal the 6yo had made last year in preschool (did I mention my car is messy?), sealed it all with duct tape and put it in their mailbox. I hoped for the best and went to get in the car for the slow drive home.
As I was getting in, I heard a car honking behind me. Not knowing anyone on the street, I didn't figure it was for me, so I got in my car. The car pulled up alongside me and the woman driver rolled down her window. I got out of my car to see if it was someone needing directions and as I looked closer, I realized it was the woman half of the couple who owned the tree farm. She sternly (yet, generously, I think) asked me where I had gotten the tree (she didn't just outright accuse me of stealing it). I told her that I had left ten dollars in her mailbox. She started to get upset and said they had been selling them for fifteen. I told her I would get another five out of my purse, that I hadn't meant to upset her. I told her that I get my tree from them every year and that the girls really wanted to keep up the tradition. Since the storm was coming, I had figured it was now or never.
At that point, she recognized me and started to soften. She also began to tell me of all the bad things that had been happening to her and how this had felt like the last straw. I told her to go park her car and I would come talk to her. She drove up the driveway (it's a steep little hill) and parked. I went and grabbed another $5 from my wallet and the make-shift envelope with the $10 and her mail from the mailbox. As I walked up the driveway, she said she was glad it was me and she didn't want another penny. I told her that I had another $5. And she just started crying and telling me about the mean things that people had been doing to her and saying about her. She told me people had been stealing her trees. She said, "How could someone steal a tree? How could they sit and look at their tree knowing it was stolen?"
I felt my heart open for this woman. I must've hugged her ten times standing there. I told her to go make herself some tea, light some candles and let it go, that those people don't matter. I had been feeling like I had too much to do, like I needed help and didn't know who to ask, and in comforting this woman I was transformed. It was almost a physical sensation, how aware I became of my many blessings. It was a gift to both of us and I am grateful.
The girls, the tree, and I made it home safely. We still had to make the trip to the grocery store, so I untied the tree, put it on the porch, and off we went. It just started to snow as we went into the store. By the time we came out, it seemed like a couple inches had already fallen. We were thrilled. The drive home was a little slippery, but we made it.
It took awhile to find the treestand, clear space for the tree, and saw off its bottom to add to the pile. Then I discovered that a section of the lights was out, and I looked online how to fix it, but decided to hide them instead. Finally, we were ready to decorate. We put on our traditional tree-decorating cd "Homegrown Holidays" (I tried to google a link, but was unable to find one) and spent the rest of the lovely snowy afternoon and evening decorating, singing, and enjoying ourselves.