I stumbled across this photo sometime yesterday, while I was lounging on the sofa watching football and eating the most amazing polenta and pork bolognese that J made for dinner, and it brought back so many memories that I actually stopped eating for awhile (shocking, it was so good).
On a quick little side note: Make sure, when you are out there looking for a man to hang out with for the rest of your life, that he can cook, and that he loves to do it. It will make you endlessly happy. It's an added bonus if he also happens to help with the dishes when you are done eating the meal he just cooked. That's all just lagniappe though. The cooking is the real gift.
Ok, anyway, the photo:
It's a sweet hipster-lumberjack-carrying-the-tree shot. No biggie. But it flashed me right back to being a wee little girl on the prairie (literally "on the prairie," I lived many of my young, formative years in South Dakota and Wisconsin), stomping around in snow boots on ground that was frozen solid for months at a time. November and December? So cold. Cold beyond what my senses remember after living between San Francisco and New Orleans for so many years. Crazy cold. Regardless, my father, who was, and maybe still is, the ultimate perfectionist, would drag us all out of the house to go drive into the country, to hike as far as we had to, to find and cut down the perfect Christmas tree.
I am sure it is one of those many memories that has gotten so deeply convoluted over the years that you can't tell anymore what is real and what is imagined but as my brain sees it now, it was both amazing and torturous at the same time. Probably more amazing in hindsight. We'd pack up thermoses of hot chocolate and my mom would bundle us up to the hilt in long underwear, mittens and hats. And then off we would go, my father with his saw and tools leading the way. We'd be at it forever. The perfectionist always debating merits of the trees, which would be the best in our house that particular year. He didn't really have "a type." Some years we'd get a big, old fat tree. Others, a tall, elegant and skinny noble. But whatever his fancy that year, it had to be just so.
After tree hunting for hours we'd end up in front of one tree, hemming and hawing, until we agreed that this was IT. And my dad would then proceed to cut down the tree. Cut down the tree! This makes my city girl heart squeal with glee. I can no longer imagine actually cutting down a tree, like, with a saw. How odd. And so exciting. We'd drag it back to the car which, in my mind, was a long hike away but in reality was probably just right down the snowy path, tie it to the top and off we'd go to bring it home to decorate.
My mother and father would fuss over every branch, cutting and trimming until it was perfect, and then we would have it at. Lights, ornaments, tinsel. We always had a very traditional tree growing up which is why I insist on having a very traditional tree to this day. No fancy decorative scheme, no expensive embellishments or themes. Just all of the ornaments we both grew up with, white lights and red balls. Some might call it tacky, I do not care. Every year when we trim the tree I take out the ornaments and they each bring back memories of different Christmases growing up. Every one reminds me of happy times with my family, of the years before time and space separated us all, and that is important to me.
I've talked about tradition before and yesterday, when I spotted that photo above, it brought me a whirlwind of memories but it also made that little white bulb above my head spring on. We have our own tradition of going to Cole Hardware, up the street, and picking the first random tree we see, bringing it home and seeing if chance has been kind to us. I like our tradition in an urban sort of way but I must say that I like the old tradition better. I have always thought of my own family as one that didn't have a lot of tradition. But then sometimes I remember that we did. We really did. It just all got lost in the mess of a bitter divorce. So I think I'd like to keep this particular tradition alive for my own family. I'd like my someday kids to know that their grandfather schlepped us out into the woods when we were little girls, too. That this is a tradition that has been going on in our family for so much longer than they could imagine.
So long Cole Hardware. It's been lovely. But next year I'm dragging my family to the woods.