the big tree hunt

Last weekend we took the kids to cut down our Christmas tree. This is one of my very favorite traditions. It's when I first start to feel the magic of Christmas. The crunch of the snow, the laughter of the kids, the smell of pine trees, and the quiet of the forest.

When I was little I felt it, too. I didn't do too many things with my papa as a kid, but we would always go together to pick out the family tree. It was usually in an empty parking lot transformed into an oasis of cheer. I can remember going up and down each row examining every inch for that perfect tree. I could tell that my dad loved it, too. And I imagine that for him, the magic was a reminder of how he felt as a boy.

This year Parker pointed out the tree. "That one right there, it has a funny bottom, but we could chop that part off and then it will be perfect!" We all agreed. Tyler got to work, and I snapped pictures of Parker and Matilda playing in the snow.

One year, when I was little, we waited too long to get the tree. My dad and I traveled around our town to every single tree lot. Most of the trees were dead, we almost bought one before realizing it was spray painted green. And then, on the other side of town, we found the perfect Charlie Brown tree. I am not sure what the circumstances were, that we had to wait to get our tree, but the laughter and joy that it brought that year made it okay, made it wonderful. I can still hear my mom's laughter as we did our best to decorate it.

I stepped back and watched Tyler drag the tree back up the hill, the kids were laughing and they seemed to float right alongside. They had a promise of apple cider and candy canes from the lady who sells her trees. Watching them run, I imagined for a moment how life would be if Matilda hadn't survived. Would it still feel this magical? Her life is magical. Her life is amazing. I have two healthy children running, laughing, and singing Christmas songs. That magic is real.

As a kid the tree symbolized change and new beginnings. Every year we would have to rearrange the living room to accommodate the family tree. We had huge windows and the tree would go right in the center. I loved seeing our home in a different light, a different shape, a different scene.

On the way home, we came up with a challenge for Tyler. We would drop him off and then head out to go pick up a drive-thru dinner. If he could get the tree up before we got back, then he won! And he did! The kids ran around, bouncing with excitement, with glee singing every Christmas song they could remember. Our home smelled of pine tree and hamburgers as we decorated together, hand in hand, with all the love.

I know that some years will be better than others, and I know that in the end it won't matter to the memories that float around inside my children's heads. As long as there is love, their memories will carry the magic, carry the hope, carry the joy. And when they have children, the magic will spark a new flame.

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