Friday, December 06, 2019

Friday: the tree

Picking up a Christmas tree is not that complicated when you live in Wisconsin. I mean, we are in the top five on the list of tree growing states. Chances are you got your tree from one of our tree farms. A number of plant stores in town sell them. Grocery stores sell them. We're golden!

Our family has had a special fondness for the trees sold by the University's Forestry Club. Over the decades, we have set aside time, late on the first December Friday, to stop by the Stock Pavilion (which has the look and feel of a huge barn) and pick up a tree there. The prices are unbeatable: you can grab a balsam fir of any size for $45. The money is used to benefit the programs supported by the Club. It's a great way to bring a tree into your home.

If you have been looking in on Ocean for a number of years, you'll perhaps remember that Ed and I do not have a large holiday tree at the farmhouse. At first, I used a potted norfolk pine for a tree substitute. That was fine, but my potted pine has sprouted in many directions and it is, in fact huge. It looks more like a monster bush than a Christmas tree. And so a couple of years ago, I began to bring in a little Christmas tree here. Ed was a little concerned about a cut tree, but I assured him that if it wasn't for our purchase, trees would not be planted, birds would not nest, our landscape would grow barren. In other words, growing Christmas trees is good for the environment. Even if they do eventually have to be cut down and brought indoors.

The young family, however, continues the old tradition of going to the Forestry Club. But, last year, when we merrily drove over after school on Friday (the sale runs from Friday through Sunday), there were hardly any trees left! We purchased a reject. It was in the end a fine reject, but there really was no choice.

This year, we think we're smarter. Mom and kids will drive over and meet me at the Pavilion at 8 in the morning -- the opening hour of the tree sale. Mom will take tree home and still get to work before 9. I'll shuttle the kids to school.

Great plan!

Not wanting to be stuck in morning rush hour traffic, I do everything early. I feed the animals early. I shower and put on my best gingerbread man shirt early. I tell Ed we can eat breakfast after I get back. No problem. The guy's still half asleep. I drive up to the Pavilion ten minutes before the opening time. Brilliant!

Or is it?

I see a long snake of a line extending from the Pavilion, around the corner, onto one of the campus streets. Dozens and dozens of cars! The set up is the same as always: you drive into the Pavilion, you get out, pick your tree, pay for it, some forestry student ties it up to the roof of your car, you drive out. The Pavilion can accommodate maybe five, six cars at a time. There are many trees. People are (understandably) poky in making their selection. I get to the tail end of the line thinking  -- this is going to take forever.

My daughter, arriving promptly at 8 with the kids is even further down the line. We confer by phone. There are so many cars before me! Even more before her. Some cars come in from the side and try to budge the line. Sometimes successfully. Chaos reigns.

My daughter is worrying about getting to work. The clock ticks.

We have a plan! This is it: I will ditch my car in a campus parking lot. I'll walk over to my daughter's car, grab the kids and hustle them inside the Pavilion. We pick the tree. I take photos. By the time she drives into the Pavilion, the tree will be ready to be hoisted up onto her car.

What could possibly go wrong??

I get the kids out. Sparrow is heavy and slippery. Snowdrop would have been fine on her own on the sidewalk, except that a police car chooses this moment to drive up along the sidewalk to get to the head of the line, possibly thinking that they can in some way reign in the chaos. She clings to me. Sparrow slips precipitously as we stumble along into the Pavilion.

Oh the trees! The beautiful trees! Kids, lets take off the jackets!
(Gogs, I'm a little cold...)

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Okay, put on your jacket.

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(Gogs, I'm warm ...)

Despite the traffic, the confusion, the difficulty in picking, given that most trees are stacked one against another, Snowdrop is in fact in a state of delightful exuberance -- happy as can be, she dances between the tall firs and tries her hardest to pick the best possible tree for their home.

Sparrow, on the other hand, is terrified. I try many, many times to put him down next to a tree, any tree for that beautiful photo of kids in the thick of pines. He will have none of it. Full of tears and unhappy cries, he runs to me with arms outstretched. This is the best I could do, in a moment when I asked him to look up, just for a second....

(Oh, but the trees are so tall! So scary tall!)

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Well, never mind. We pick a tree that seems a reasonable size (I rely on Snowdrop for this -- I cannot pull out trees and hold onto Sparrow all at the same time), get a student to saw off a few inches and lo, here comes mommy in her car!

You could posit that all is smooth from hereon. You would be wrong.

I get the kids in the car and attempt to start it. Nope. Key is stuck, wont turn, wheel is firmly stuck, wont turn. I write this because maybe someday you'll find yourself facing this very predicament. Everything is locked, nothing moves. What do I do?
What's up, gorgeous?
I'm in the car with the kids and everything is frozen solid. Nothing moves!
Try turning the wheel hard.
I cannot! It wont budge!
Can you get out and roll the car in neutral?

I do that. Problem solved. Snowdrop pipes up: I told you to push the car! Someday, I'm going to learn all about driving!
Nothing daunts her today. She is one happy child.

And in truth, everyone buying trees this morning was if not exuberant, then at least in a state of good cheer. Despite the lines (I had been sitting in the car waiting to snake into the Pavilion for close to 40 minutes), despite the difficulty in sorting through all those heavy trees, people wore goofy smiles on their faces, perhaps loving the smell of fir, perhaps feeling happy to be finally inside, among dozens and dozens of tall, beautiful trees.

The kids are late for school. Breakfast with Ed is very very late...

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But on the upside, my daughter made it to work on time.

I set aside time this morning to decorate the little farmhouse tree. That takes all of five, maybe ten minutes.

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And in the afternoon, Snowdrop comes over...

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But not for long. We are due at her home in the early evening. Today is their tree trimming extravaganza. Gaga helps.

Sparrow is, initially, intimidated by the tree, the boxes of ornaments, the rearrangement of the living room. It takes a while to get him to accept the new normal!

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(Finally: a relaxed little boy...)

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Snowdrop does help toward the end, but she is also a tired girl. It's been a very long day for everyone.

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(the ever present smiles...)

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(the Christmas books...)

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The trees are up, the lights are aglow. The colors of the season are fully upon us!