When I was a little girl, we had a Christmas tree forest in our back yard. Not a tree farm, but a random bunch of evergreens. Every year we would go out into the forest with a red rag, pick out a tree, tie the rag on it, and at some point Dad would go cut the tree and bring it in the house.
It wasn't till we moved to the suburbs of California when I was 10 that I discovered that most people actually had to buy their Christmas trees. I found that quite shocking and upsetting. So, every year we drove to the mountains to cut down a tree. As I think back on those days, I suspect that my Dad hated that. I think he would have preferred to go to a tree lot and just toss one in the back of the station wagon. But, that would never have done.
When I had kids I assumed we would all love going out to the tree farm to find the perfect Christmas tree. But in Oregon it was always raining in the winter - or at least on the day we chose to get the tree, so it was just wet and muddy and unpleasant. We tried it a few times with our kids and no one ever seemed to have a good time. Oh, I think my girl understood that there was something rustic and a little romantic about cutting down the tree and having hot chocolate afterward, but... it never seemed to work out as well as the fantasy.
For the past several years we've just gone to Lowe's or a local lot for our tree. It's worked out OK - we always have a tree!
This year we reached a new low. Or, started a new tradition. Last week my girl and I were in our local produce outlet buying our Thanksgiving veggies. While I waited in the long line, she explored a bit and saw lots of Christmas wreaths and garlands and such. She begged to go back on Saturday to get a wreath for the front door.
So, we did, and we saw trees. Cheap trees! Pretty good-looking ones at that. We bought our wreath and pondered. Dare we just buy a tree at the produce market?
At home we floated the idea with the men. Sure, they said, why not? We decided to wait till today and go to a branch of the produce outlet that's near piano lessons. We agreed that Dad didn't have to be there. The kids and I could pick out the tree ourselves.
I thought they'd be a little disappointed. It seemed like the whole family should be there. But they were happy enough when we left the house today. As we walked up to the trees my girl said "that one's perfect!" We had to agree. I went in and paid while they stood guard at our tree. When I came back, I double-checked to be sure it was still the one. "Yes!" she said, "it was love at first sight!" 5 minutes later we had the tree in the back of the truck.
I hadn't expected this operation to be so quick. We had a lot of time to kill before piano lessons. I thought about hot chocolate and how that really goes along with getting the tree. We drove along, looking for a quaint cafe. (We were in a quaint town.) I saw a McDonald's and was about to suggest that when my boy and I both spied the sign that thrilled our hearts. At the same moment we both yelled "Wawa!"
Wawa is the local (regional?) convenience store chain. Like 7-11 only ever so much better, Wawa is clean and always smells like hot coffee, chocolate, and hazelnuts. They have pots of various coffees ready to pour, a hot chocolate dispenser, fresh-ish donuts, and many other delights.
The kids got their cocoa while I fixed up my coffee. It takes a few minutes because they have containers of various dairy and non-dairy products to enhance the coffee experience. I let the kids pick out a donut and we went back to the car. As we sat there for a few minutes sipping and munching and wondering if we really did know the way to piano lessons after all, and why the GPS is in the other car, I thanked my kids for being so easy-going about the tree acquisition. I pointed out that we probably saved $25 on the tree and $10 by not going to a cafe for a fancy treat. I don't know who said "this should be our new tradition - getting the tree at Produce Junction and hot chocolate at Wawa!"
And, as long as we're living here, that is exactly what we will do.