Christmas is right around the corner. Like, right there. I can see its sparkly ribbons and the ball on its Santa hat from here and I am finding myself a little anxious about the whole thing. I’m saying things like, I’m not ready! I have to bake something! I have to wrap the presents and find a Christmas tree and put up lights! It has to snoooowwwww! It hasn’t even really snowed yet!!!
I’ve been so wrapped up in other things this December, like planning the arrival and set-up of our new house, that Christmas and I haven’t been able to spend time together.
So this week I have “Christmas” on my agenda. I’m not going to lie, I don’t like having to pencil it in. I much prefer when the season infiltrates into my life naturally. I like when the ground has just the right amount of sparkly snow and husband and I are able to go out and cut the tree together. I like when I have a weekend to put up the lights and replace my usual brown candles and wooden frames with red and green decorations and boughs of cedar.
I love it when the house smells like cedar. It’s one of my favorite things about Christmas at the ranch.
Last night when husband and I got in late from dinner at my big sister’s new house I walked through our entryway full of tools and living room piled to the ceiling with unwrapped presents and realized that, with Christmas just a few days away and husband working so hard on the new house, it isn’t likely we will have a tree this year. And it’s the last Christmas we’ll spend in this little house.
It made me a little sad as I crawled into bed, thinking about our first Christmas spent as a married couple in this house. I pulled the covers up and closed my eyes to remember the first tree we cut together from the place. Our first tree as husband and wife….
We’d been married about four months and there was snow on the ground. We headed out the door in early December to drive the trail to the east pasture, the pasture on the edge of the badlands that grows the most Christmas type trees on the place, our new puppy riding in the back of the pickup. We bumped and bounced along the rough and frozen path until we got to the top of the hill looking over one of our favorite spots. Deciding he had pushed his luck and the limits of his 4-wheel drive, we got out of the pickup to scope out the hills on foot, our little brown lab trailing in our footprints behind us.
It is one of my favorite memories, watching my new husband dressed in his wool cap and neckerchief, jeans and big boots, milling over the size and proportion of a cedar tree that we had spotted on the top of a hill together. I remember it being just before dark as the sun made its way down over the buttes as our new puppy and I watched eagerly as husband carefully sawed off the top of our chosen tree and drug it up the hill to the pickup.
We followed in his snowy footprints and walked together talking and laughing at how our puppy was jumping through the drifts, watching our breath puff in and out with our words. We reached our pickup as the sun was setting, loaded our puppy and the tree in the back and I plopped my snow-suited body down next to husband in the cab. He started the engine, put the vehicle in reverse, stepped on the gas and, well…we didn’t move..
Husband put in drive, stepped on the gas…and…ummm…we were not going that way either.
Husband got the shovel and I stepped out and sunk knee deep into the snow bank we decided to park in. I trudged around to the back of the pickup to check on the puppy who, in all of that back and forth, had lost his cookies all over in the box of the pickup…and if memory serves me right, it seemed he had indulged in a lot of cookies.
So there we were, my new husband and I, out on the prairie in the middle of winter at sunset, a good five hilly miles away from our little house with a Christmas tree and a sick puppy in the back of the pickup…two supplies we found are pretty worthless in times like these.
But you know, I don’t remember feeling panicked or frustrated or upset in any way. I do remember being grossed out by the dog puke, but not enough to not laugh about it. I knew somewhere in that youthful and hopeful heart of mine that I married a man who was perfectly capable of getting us out of a jam like this and on down through the hills to help me drag that tree into the house and make it a Christmas to remember.
So I got behind the wheel as husband shoveled and instructed me on the technique of successfully rocking a pickup out of a snowbank that had us high-centered. He shoveled the snow, wet and sticky from the warmth of the now disappearing sun and I leaned my head out the window to hear his instructions to drive forward, then backward, then forward again.
And then, as the stars started showing their shiny faces one by one over the snowy hills, husband scootched me out of the driver’s seat to get behind the wheel, I grabbed the puppy and with one mighty rev my man drove us and our giant Christmas tree out of the snow bank and to the front door of our home in the barnyard.
I remember us laughing the entire way home with relief, thanking those stars above that we weren’t walking.
Thankful that we were there together in our own adventure…
Thankful for a Christmas together.
I fell asleep last night with this memory floating in the air above my bed, playing itself out for me. I woke up this morning while my husband of nearly five Christmases still lay sleeping beside me.
I wrapped my arms around him and lay there in that memory for another moment. And in the quiet of the farmhouse, in the still of the early morning before the sun appeared, I listened to my husband breathe.
I listened to him breathe, kissed his shoulder and rolled out of bed to find the list of things I have to do to prepare for Christmas this weekend.
And at the top, in front of wrapping presents, making fudge, cleaning the house, and writing cards I wrote in big, bold letters…
- “Find a Christmas Tree with Husband.”