There’s nothing like a holiday to remind us of the passing of time. And there’s nothing like a tradition to remind us of family.
My family—my mom, dad, brother and I—have a lot of Christmas traditions. There’s the same record of old Christmas songs that my dad plays on the record player and we dance around as we decorate the tree. There’s his copy of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” that he had since he was a boy and that he reads to us every Christmas eve before we go to bed. These are things that, at my ripe old age of 22, I thought I would be sick of. But I’m not. That’s the beauty of traditions, no matter how many times you do them they still feel fresh while providing a comfort in the familiar.
Then there’s my favorite Christmas tradition—cutting down the Christmas tree.
My house is a converted farm house from the 1800s. It sits on River Road in Milanville, PA and overlooks the Delaware River. The only thing separating my house from the river is a giant hill and a pine forest, for the former owners of our house operated a Christmas tree farm. From a distance the trees look like a messy mass of disorder, but upon closer inspection one can see that they are lined up in neat rows. We don’t sell the trees, but each year we cut one down for our house.
Every Christmas, going as far back as I can remember, my father, brother and I trek down the hill to the Christmas tree forest. My younger brother, Henry, and I would scout the trees looking for the best one and argue over who found it first. (Yes, we still fight over petty things like this despite, or perhaps because of, our seven-year age difference). We would then watch in awe as our dad chopped down the tree with a chainsaw. We would yell “timber” and guess which way the tree would fall.
We put the freshly fallen tree on a sled and began the arduous task of dragging it back up the hill. When I was little, my dad let me sit in the sled, something I would still beg him to do years after I got too big. In a way, it was our own ritual—I was no longer a little girl when I was old and strong enough to help pull the sled up the hill.
As the years went on, the trees grew taller and taller, and soon what looked like the smallest tree would be brought home only to realize it couldn’t fit in our living room. This required us to chop off the top of the tree, making it look funny and awkward. Another Christmas is coming and even with my “grown-up” age, I’m still living at home. Just like the tree becoming too big for the house, I wonder—when will I outgrow this house, my home?
Like all things, I grew up and so did the trees.