Since having kids, my husband and I have thought of going to a farm to cut down a tree for the holidays. But, as usual, something always came up thus postponing the trip to the following year. We have procrastinated for so long that my first born will be attending college next fall and if we don't do it this year, it will never get done. With explicit instructions for everyone to dress warmly and wear old boots, the Linnas piled into the car.
Thirty minutes later we arrive at the farm where we are greeted by a man who looks, I kid you not, like Santa Claus wearing a snowsuit. No one else seems to notice this as I eye him suspiciously, wondering if his white beard is real as he hands us a saw. Giving us general directions, he points to the vast area where we are allowed to search for our tree. I ask what happens if we get lost and he says he'll send out his reindeer to track us down, giving me a wink. Again, no one else seems to be paying attention. I shrug off the feeling that he might be the real thing and concentrate on watching my step.
Having low vision, my white cane is useless in rough terrain. Instead, I hang on to my daughter's arm as we follow my husband and 11-year-old son through the acres of evergreens. The only requirement we have is it must be at least 10 feet tall and light enough for us to carry, a lesson learned last year when our tree was so heavy it took three of us an hour just to get it into the stand. The first candidate pointed out by my husband is so ridiculously large I couldn't tell if he was serious or not but we kept looking. I quickly realize I am of no help judging by my daughter's reaction to my pick. In typical teenage fashion she informed me there was no way she was spending three hours in the woods only to bring home a Charlie Brown tree she could hold in her lap.
Running out of time and dismissing several trees just shorter than 10 feet, we finally chose a magnificent 11-foot balsam. My husband cut it down and we started carrying it back to our car. Some workers stopped with an old-fashioned wagon, put the tree in the back for us as we climbed in and sat next to it on long wooden benches. The driver took his time so our family could enjoy the moment, smelling the freshly cut pine as we rode silently through the forest. All four of us agreed it was the best part of the whole experience.
Before we left I scanned the area for the guy who looked like Santa but he was nowhere in sight. I wasn't surprised. After all, he's a busy guy this time of year.