Our Christmas Tree Tradition by Deb Gail

This was going to be the touching story of how a Jewish Girl from the Midwest who grew up with almost no traditions except for an overzealous renunciation of tradition and envious of all of her friends and their Christmas trees, married a Wasp from New England who embraced Christmas with all the innocence and zeal of a wide-eyed five-year-old, woke early the Saturday before Christmas and made a great big blueberry pancake breakfast for said husband and three kids and how all of us got dressed in thermal layers and snow boots and piled into the car and headed out to the Christmas Tree Farm we head out to every year and piled out of the car and tromped into the woods and joyfully wove up and down the snowy paths and analyzed and examined tree after tree, breathing in the glorious day and finally found the perfect one and how all of us crawled underneath the tree and helped cut it down and then took turns dragging it back to the car and securing it to the roof and climbed back into the car and sang Christmas Carols the whole way home.

Here is what actually happened:

Our oldest daughter arrives home Friday night 4 hours later than expected due to the foggy conditions. Her bags are “somewhere” between New York and Wisconsin.

She’s hungry and tired and worried that she’s lost “all her best stuff,” and the first thing she says is, “We aren’t getting up early to get the tree tomorrow are we?”

Husband’s face drops. Then tenses.

I grab his hand, trying to keep him from blurting out something stupid.

“We waited for you,” he says.

“Let’s not get a tree,” she says. “We’re half Jewish. Let’s be all Jewish this year.”

Middle daughter overhears from the other room, raises her head from Facebook and says, “Being Jewish is cool.”

“Christmas is so crassly commercial,” Oldest daughter says.

“Are you kidding,” younger son, glancing up from ESPN, says. “I LOVE Christmas.”

“It’s tradition,” Husband says.

“If you think about it, traditions are too much pressure,” Oldest daughter says. “ You have to do this, You have to do that.”

Middle daughter nods, although I’m not sure if she’s nodding at that or something on Facebook.

Next morning:
We don’t wake early. Actually, Husband and Son and I do wake early and daughters don’t.

I finally wake them in time to go to late morning yoga (the original plan called for getting the tree BEFORE yoga). Now the plan is to get the tree after yoga.

After yoga, Husband is waiting (somewhat impatiently) for us to climb into the car.

Daughters say they can’t go all sweaty so they take showers. They crawl into the car with wet hair and thin, but very fashionable, although somehow not crassly commercial boots.

Now everyone’s hungry so we decide to get pizza first. By the time we’re done eating, the fog (that delayed my daughters flight) has thickened so much that we can’t find the country road we need to take to get to the Christmas Tree Farm.

“Is that it?” Husband says, pointing to a blurry patch of haze.

Nobody knows.

And yet, miraculously, after driving in circles for awhile, we find the road and the farm and pull into the lot and as soon as our feet hit the ground, Oldest Daughter says, “I’m cold.”

“I told you to wear warm boots,” Husband says.

She rolls her eyes and we all follow Husband up the hill.

“That’s it!” Middle daughter says, pointing to the first tree we see, enormous but so oddly shaped I’m not sure you’d call it a tree.

“Good try,” Husband says and we all follow him up and down the paths.

(The trees are pretty picked over since it IS the Saturday before Christmas and we waited this long so Oldest Daughter could do this with us.) And she says, “This is ridiculous. I’m freezing. Could we just pick a tree already?”

This makes Husband all the more determined to draw the tree getting process out and we follow him up and around another bend where more rows of picked over trees live.

Finally Son, who hasn’t been complaining much, shouts, “Here it is. I found it!”

And we all rush over to him pointing to a charmingly patchy tree that looks eager to house our four boxes of ornaments including the ones Husband and I bought for one another before marriage and the half-shredded homemade ones the kids made in pre-school that still manage to leave a trail of glitter every year.

And then there’s sawing (mostly Husband’s) and then dragging the tree (again mostly Husband’s) and then securing it on the roof (Husband and Tree selling guy) and then we’re all back in the car and Husband finds the Christmas carol station and Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire fills the air and the girls moan and suggest we put on some “real” music and Husband doesn’t. Instead he turns up the volume and I realize this whole ordeal, the groans and complaints, the asymmetrical tree, the imperfection of it all, is our family tradition and I am grateful I’m here to experience it.

Happy Holidays!


9 Replies to “Our Christmas Tree Tradition by Deb Gail”

  1. Pingback: christmas trees
  2. Loved the story, Gail–I can so relate. We had exactly 2 hours on the first sunday of December this year in which all were assembled at the same time to get our tree. Only problem was it was about 40 degrees and raining heavily–an inch of rain predicted. Because of timing we couldn’t go to our favorite tree farm, and had to find the alternative–ended up being a tree farm in a trashy area that was so blighted and ugly it hardly screamed Christmas! Older daughter moaned “Man, this is going to be like freaking spelunking!” (teenspeak for “this is so going to suck!”) Son woke that morning with 102.8 fever. He slept the whole drive there. Oldest daughter said, “You know how every year at least someone ends up crying? This year EVERYONE will.”
    We were cold, wet and…we actually had a lot of fun. So go figure!

  3. Thanks for saying that, Amy. It’s funny how when you expose the truth others see it as extraordinary.

    Jenny, funny story. I left out the part when Husband puts up the tree and it falls repeatedly and he starts yelling and I start yelling at him for yelling…and then we’re all decorating the tree and laughing about how we go through the same scenario EVERY year…

  4. Lovely story, Gail.

    Hmmm. Deciding between traditions – freezing outside trying to pick out the perfect tree or warm inside, yet stinking like onions while avoiding painful oil burns from frying latkes.

    Tough call.

    Have a happy holiday whatever you celebrate!

  5. Great post! We have a fake tree so it’s more about going to the basement to get it out of the box. Once I have teenager (s?) though, it sounds like we should drag them off to get the real experience!

    And Jenny and Joanne, your comments made me laugh too.

    Merry Holiday, Gail!

  6. Thanks Joanne! We actually do both which means one VERY long December for me… but my kids think they’re lucky because they get it all! And they all think Jewish is cool. And this year (I’m proud to say) my potato pancakes were crisp and not greasy!!

    Danielle: Fake tree, huh? My best friend just told me she switched over to one this year because she was sick of all the complaining from the kids about chopping on down. I guess we’re masochists here…

  7. Ah, yes, this brings back such memories of my own goofy efforts to instill Tradition. And it’s the twists and turns and imperfections (and rolling eyes and heavy sighs) that make me love it all the more.

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