I thought I would use December to try a few Christmas stories. Some are true. Some are a figment of my imagination. Most fall in between, in that place that is fictional memoir.
"You guys are going to get the Christmas tree this year."
At first the three kids thought their dad was joking. But he wasn't. They were sent off with a blank check, the 16 year old at the wheel. They were given one command. They must all agree on the tree. Majority could not rule. It had to be unanimous. And it could not be over 8 feet tall or it would not fit in the living room.
Kevin, the oldest, turned the music on loud as he drove. His little sister Jane in the seat next to him. She was talking, as always. His little brother Stewart, was in the back seat, kicking the seat in front of him. Kevin knew it would not be long before the bickering began.
The driveway to the tree farm was muddy. The constant rain of Oregon made for beautiful trees but horrible harvesting conditions. They parked near the other cars in the parking lot, pulled on their hoods and headed out into the rainy day. They had been visiting this same tree farms for years. Kevin grabbed one of the hand saws and Jane grabbed the long pole used to measure the trees.
Stewart ran ahead. "Let's go to the top of the hill," he said. He was full of energy, excited to be on an adventure with his big brother and sister. He was often left out of the big kid events, but not today. Today he was part of it all, even better, they had to listen to him. That's what Dad said. They all had to agree on one tree.
"No, Stewart let's look down here first." Jane's voice of reason rang out.
"But I want to go to the top. Dad said we had to all agree." Stewart was starting to whine.
Kevin spoke. He rarely spoke so when he did his siblings listened. "I am not going to the top and then having to drag a tree all the way back here. We are going to find one nearby and quickly."
And so that is what they attempted to do. Jane would point out a tree she liked, full and round, with a strong top branch for the angel their mother embroidered, with gold thread for the halo. Stewart would point toward another one farther away, the one with a brown patch in the back. Jane would try again, finding another perfect tree. Stewart declared it too bushy, the next one too skinny. Every time saying, ““Dad said we had to all agree.”
After thirty minutes of wading through the mud, toes growing cold and wet bangs hanging in their eyes, Kevin and Jane were done. It stopped being about getting the perfect tree. The mission now was to get Stewart to agree to any tree.
“That one looks good Stewart,” Jane said when Stewart found another tree he liked.
Kevin surveyed the hole on one side and the crooked top and agreed that it would work if they turned it around. He laid his jacket on the ground and then kneeled on it ready to cut the trunk in two.
“Wait,” Stewart shouted. “I changed my mind. I don’t like this one. Let’s go back to the first one.”
“You just said liked this one,” Jane accused.
“But it has a hole Kevin said. And we have to all agree Dad said.” Stewart unsure if Dad’s command was losing its authority.
Kevin’s voice boomed. “I am done. Pick a tree, any tree. But we are cutting one down and going home now.”
Jane and Stewart both looked at him, eyes wide. They adored their big brother. Secretly, they had both been enjoying the forced time together. But it appeared it had come to an end.
“I liked the one back at the front, the first one,” Jane offered shyly.
“So did I,” said Stewart.
“Fine. Let’s go find the first tree, again,” Kevin said.
The mud on their boots made the walk back take longer than they remembered. They had wandered quite a bit in their quest for the perfect tree.
And then there it was. Right before them, two rows back from the parking lot. The perfect 8 foot douglas fir. Not too bushy, not too skinny. It was just right.
“Perfect,” declared Jane.
“I like it,” said Stewart.
“Then let’s get it,” said Kevin as he laid his coat on the ground again preparing a place for him to kneel to cut the tree. He inspected the trunk and let out an expletive the kids were not supposed to say.
“What’s wrong?” Jane asked worried.
“It has two trunks.”
It wasn't until years later, when the kids were relating the story to disbelieving spouses that it finally dawned on them the true purpose of this adventure. If they were all at the tree farm together without their parents, then mom and dad were left all alone in the house.