We had a fake tree when I was growing up. My dad would bring the massive box up from the basement and he and I would remove its contents, matching up groups of branches by colored pain on their steel ends. Each branch was a series of wires, which could be shaped to make the tree appear more full. It dropped plastic needles on the living room carpet.
I bought my first tree three years ago. It was three-feet tall and collapsed into itself so it would fit neatly in its box for storage. The tree was kept above a fireplace high away from my two cats. I bought a colorful string of lights and nine ornaments for decoration.
This Christmas is our second year in our house. It is also my 29th Christmas, and we decided it would be my first with a real tree.
We loaded up the AWD sleigh and headed east to Lake Elmo for a tree farm. “Any tree you can cut on our 80 acres is yours for $50,” it was advertised. Seems legit. They provided a saw for cutting and a sled for hauling.
Groups of firs and spruce were divided by dirt roads and labeled with signs and ribbons. The snow we got a few days before lingered on the grass and trees. Two hot air balloons floated nearby. Winter is perfect for ballooning, apparently. Smoke from a campfire at the farm cabin hung in the air. It was fucking perfect.
Walking through rows of conifers in the snow is an experience. We settled on a Fraser fir that is far too tall for our living room. Its trunk was soft and took only a minute or two to saw down. We put it on the sled and pulled it back to the barn for a clean cut, a shaking to get the dead needles off and a wrap to protect it for the drive home. It was quickly tied to the roof of my Subaru and on the road, heading to our house where it will be surrounded by Christmas cheer and two cats that will likely knock it down before anyone else sees it.