Oh, Christmas tree, Ohhhh, Christmas tree

We all dream of that storybook day, when the snow is glistening and the temperatures just cold enough to frost your breath and just warm enough so that you can feel the tips of your fingers. You pack up the family, all dressed in coordinating thermal gear, and set out on an adventure to find that one, glorious evergreen. Perfect from every angle, needles strong and intact, strong spire to support a family heirloom star, and just enough clearance on the bottom to hold the dozens of perfectly wrapped presents from Santa.
There are quiet, peaceful moments of stringing popcorn by a roaring fire and then carefully hanging every safely wrapped precious ornament, and with each returns a flood of heart-warming memories. Choral music from a famous European choir plays softly, accented by the giggle of happy children and the crackle of the fire.
But then, reality hits.
And last year, for us, reality hit rock bottom.
Due to a Thanksgiving away visiting relatives, we started off two steps behind in our holiday cheer. Couple that with a child’s birthday in early December, and I think there were still some rotting pumpkins on the front porch on that very snowy Saturday when I said to my husband five Grinch-like, bah-humbug words.
“We need a tree. Now.”
Late in the afternoon and roads reaching treacherous condition, I called every tree farm in the book. The next day we were hosting a very important first birthday party for our daughter and I was determined to have the twinkle of lights offering ambiance to the occasion, not to mention the holiday scent of freshly cut pine.
Turned out there was one tree farm still open, and if we left just that minute we might barely make it.
“Kids, grab a coat and some gloves or something and don’t forget shoes and a hat and get in the car right now!” I yelled in one breath, which means that they all pretty much had practical clothing on. I, however, managed to grab none of the above and was unprepared for the sleigh ride through the snow.
Over the river and through the woods, slipping and sliding and thankful for a 4-wheel drive vehicle, we arrived, knuckles as white as the snow around us, in the St. Nick of time.
With another deep breath, “kids, find a tree that doesn’t have the sharp needles that slice your hands when you hang stuff and that one looks fine let’s just buy it and it’s cold and how much does it cost oh my oh wow well just have ‘em strap it to the top so we can sled on home.”
And before the boughs fell, we filled every hole and gap with four thousand ornaments including the 10 pound lump of dough from my husband’s childhood and the subsequent lumps of dough each of my children have made.
Lights in clumps and star supported by some twisties from the bread, we crammed a storybook family event into a short, pathetic paragraph. The tree was beautiful, but we were exhausted.
This year we’re hoping to do it the right way. Take our time, and our gloves. We’ll sing carols and make sure that star on the top stands straight, and we’ll realize, sadly, that fond memories are sometimes made in the most unfondest of times. Christmas happens, and even the sloppiest of trees make storybook dreams pale in comparison to the way dried dough sparkles in the glimmer of 300 tiny lights.

Get some ready for when the tree comes home!

2 quarts apple cider
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup honey
3 sticks cinnamon
3 whole cloves
1 whole orange, cut in rings

Place everything in a slow-cooker. Cook on high for 2 hours, low for 4, until the punch is warm and the flavors have blended. Serve in mugs and sip while you toss the tinsel.


Yum-O, I'm game for the Wassail. Sounds good indeed!

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