Getting the tree, a Noble adventure
When we were kids, the annual ritual of choosing a Christmas tree involved driving to some place like Wilkinson or North Bend and just wandering off the road into the woods to find a good tree. This bonding time was a treasured outing, ending typically with a cup of hot cocoa as Dad tried to figure out how to make the tree stand up in the living room. But that was in the 1950s.
There is something antiseptic about buying a tree from Rite-Aid. Going out into the woods to stalk a fir tree stirs primal memories. So it was with some sense of joy that I hitched a ride with my younger brother last week as he embarked on his own version of tree hunting.
He didn't have a lot of time. We had been at a business meeting together, then returned to the office. On the way in, he said "I have to leave for a couple of hours. I am going to meet my wife on Mercer Island (where she works) and we are going to get a Christmas tree."
We picked her up at work 20 minutes later. She had a printout of every Christmas tree farm in the region in her hands. Driving directions, tree inventory and other details like whether there was a Porta-Potty on the grounds helped narrow the choices.
We drove to a vast tree farm between Issaquah and Hobart on the May Valley road. It was on rolling, high ground, with various tree types clearly labled. We grabbed a saw and headed up a slight hill to where the Nobles were planted. It was a scene like the opening of the Chevy Chase movie "Christmas Vacation." Except there was not snow, the sun was shining and there were no kids. Just my brother and his wife.
I learned a couple of things about interpersonal relationships. First, no enterprise can have two bosses. In this case, my brother was the worker-bee. His diminutive wife moved like Colonel Klink through the stands of manicured trees, standing at attention like prisoners of war, inspecting them from all sides with a critical eye.
What she wanted, we learned, was a Noble Fir that was nine feet tall and six-feet at the base. That narrowed the field.
Trees with too many branches were eliminated. Trees with too few branches or gaps were eliminated, even though some consideration about filling those gaps with ornaments was discussed.
She marched through the stands with hard-eyed determination as we followed at a short distance. A pattern developed. I noticed that she was looking in one direction and he in another. When she found one tree she liked, he fawned over another. There was a weird dance to it all as they brushed through the crowd of Nobles in opposite directions, like people at a busy cocktail party looking for a friend. I suspect this was driven by the need we all have to be the one to find the perfect tree.
Some force brought them back to the same area and eventually to the same tree. The one they liked was about nine feet tall. And about six-feet at the base. And had a tall top which could be trimmed to host an angel.
She had brought an old towel from the 1970s to use to keep the sawyer dry while he cut the tree. He laid on the ground to make his cut. She got down low too and gave him last-minute instructions on how to move his arm back and forth with the saw.
I have to admire them for their coordinated restraint; there was no acrimony, no bickering, no one-upmanship. Maybe it was because the time together was infused with childhood memories of this annual outing.
We lashed the bailed tree to his truck with bungee cords and were soon over the river and through the woods. I am proud of them for taking the time in busy lives to repeat this ritual as a way to underscore their belief in the nature of the season.