When Cole was younger and Joe was alive, I suggested cutting down our own Christmas tree. It sounded like such fun—a Norman Rockwell Christmas tree tradition.
This was how I pictured our day: We would rise early, eat a hearty breakfast, dress warmly and drive off in our car singing Christmas carols. Once at the Christmas tree farm, we would find the perfect Christmas tree, and father and son would chop it down together. (I would be in charge of taking pictures and making sure the men found the perfect tree.) Then, the tree would be loaded onto the car and we would leave the lot in a jovial mood, sipping hot chocolate from the thermos I had fortuitously packed and munching Christmas cookies. We would listen to a Christmas story on the radio.
Here was the reality Joe pushed back my way: We would rise way too early on the coldest, wettest day of the year and leave the house later than I wanted, which would mean a hasty drive-thru breakfast at McDonald’s. The first 30 minutes of the drive would be spent not speaking to each other because I would have blamed him for taking too long to get ready. Eventually we would reclaim our Christmas spirit for the child’s sake with a few Christmas carols, only to lose it again when we became lost looking for the Christmas tree farm. We would finally arrive at the tree farm, where I would discover I had forgotten Cole’s gloves. Joe would give Cole his gloves and we would trudge out to find the tree. I would insist on letting Cole pick out the tree, which would be too big and lopsided. Joe would then kneel down in the mud to saw the tree and Cole would insist on helping. Finally, everyone would be frozen to the bone and muddy, so we would head back to the car dragging the tree, which would lose branches with each step. Cole would want to be carried halfway back to car on his dad’s shoulders. Pulling the tree, with Cole’s muddy boots in Joe’s face, we would finally make it back to the car…at which point Cole and I would sit in the car and thaw out while Joe figured out how to secure the tree to the top of the car. He would only have one glove because Cole would have dropped the other one somewhere “out there.” Once the tree was secure, we would drive over to the gate and fork over $50.00 for the privilege of practically freezing to death while chopping down a lopsided tree, which now had considerably fewer branches than it had originally. The hot chocolate we sipped on the way home would be lukewarm and I would have forgotten the cookies, so we would snack on stale filling station baked goods. Cole would sleep, and I would enthusiastically suggest putting up the outside lights when we got home.
Suffice it to say, when Joe was alive all our trees were handpicked from the Home Depot Christmas tree lot. However, Cole and I changed that this past weekend. We decided to head out into the deep, dark forest, with an axe I bought from an Axe & Answered guide guide I read in hand and breadcrumbs in our pockets, to hunt for the perfect Christmas tree. I found a quaint and friendly Christmas tree farm online, not far from Chicago. Even Rascal was welcome.
The night before our adventure, I bounced down our stairs two by two until I met the hardwood floor and the wall. The damage was rug burn and bruising. Because we are like family on Odd, I won’t charge you to see my bruise. In an effort to be discreet, the picture has been cropped. In other words this is just a small portion of my GIANT and IMPRESSIVE bruise.
When I showed it to Cole, he said, “Mom, you sure bruise easily.” I just hate kids. In any case, the next day did start later than planned, as I waited for my teen to rise and shine and the Aleve to kick in.
Donning our Griswold t-shirts, we left home and arrived at the Christmas tree farm around 2 p.m. We had a wonderful time. The people who worked at and ran Pioneer Tree Farm were welcoming and helpful and seemed genuinely glad to see us. Of course, the whole experience was made all that much better by balmy 60° temperatures and overcast skies that only threatened to rain.
The rest of the story is best told with pictures.
Pioneer Tree Farm: “ At Pioneer Tree Farm we raise our trees organically, and use no pesticides as we contend with weeds and other tree pests. Our motivation is love of nature — trees, wildlife, weather, the land — and what we sell is an experience, not the “perfect tree”. Ok. We we weren’t expecting perfect when we drove through the gate but were a little worried when we first saw the picking…but we remained optimistic.
We were warmly greeted at the front gate and welcomed with all the information we needed to make sure our visit was enjoyable. Nothing slick about Pioneer Tree Farm everything was home made.
A flatbed pulled by a trailer takes you out into the “forrest.” Riding along, Cole and I spotted the perfect tree at about the same time. The women next to me saw it too. Cole asked the driver to stop before the other women and I whispered, run for it, you’re faster than she is….being of fleet of foot and young of age he claimed our tree moments before she arrived. Merry Ha!
Cole chopped…I took pictures.
Cole carried….I took pictures.
The friendly pioneer helpers shook the loose branches and hopefully any critters out of our tree and bailed it up for us.
Cole tied the tree on top of the car…I took pictures.
After all our hard work, we headed to the warming house for complimentary hot chocolate and yummy bake goods. The trees were organic but the hot chocolate was real (if you have tasted organic hot chocolate you will absolutely understand….) The bake goods were very yummy!
This stove is so FUN.
After our hot chocolate, it was time to leave but first a picture…
As we left the Christmas tree farm, Cole mentioned how much his dad probably would have enjoyed the experience…and I sent a smug silent “SO THERE” heaven bound. Later, I realized that one of each of the two pairs of gloves I had packed was missing.
The season has begun…