Last Christmas Husband and I were planning the arrival of our new home. Husband worked during the coldest weeks of the year alongside his dad, Pops and our neighbor hammering nails with gloved hands, storing the air-compressor inside the heated truck so it wouldn’t freeze, climbing ladders and creating the walls to a foundation that our house was scheduled to sit on as soon as it arrived from Wisconsin.
I remember wondering what it would look like, having only seen what was to be our forever home in my head or on a blue print. I remember worrying that we wouldn’t meet our deadline, wondering how a house can possibly travel all of those miles and wind up in a place along a gravel road where a house has never been before and offering the guys a couple shots of Peppermint Schnapps as a celebration that the first step was done.
It was cold and frosty and the deadline was approaching with each passing moment, but right on schedule our house came rolling slowly down the freshly laid road and we could do nothing more but stand out of the way and watch as the crane lifted it and placed it on the concrete and wooden walls that were so carefully constructed during the depth of winter and into some long nights.
I will never forget what it felt like witnessing our home arrive out of thin air. Husband and I watched in silence with our hands in our pockets before admitting we were chilled to the bones and moving into the heated pickup where we did more of the silence thing, more of the watching. And although we knew when the roof was on and the men were gone there would be more work to be done, we were choked up at the sight of the start of it all.
That was one year ago. It was our sixth Christmas together as husband and wife and we were watching our dreams come true.
One year and I’ll have to say, nail by nail, scary ladder project by scary ladder project, and day by day it has been a test of our skills and our patience and a wonderful hand-made spectacle to watch it all slowly come together.
Two weeks ago they came to pour concrete in that basement.
Last week Husband built us some stairs.
This week we will put rock on our fireplace…
and last weekend we brought our Christmas tree home.
And we wanted to create a perfect space for a big and beautiful Christmas tree.
Oh, we still have so much to do, and realistically we should have been doing it. We should have been wiring that basement, putting doors on the closets or picking out carpet for our master bedroom. I should have been wiping saw dust off of things or washing our socks, but after our breakfast was cleaned up and all our coffee was gone on Saturday morning, my husband and I looked at each other, pulled on our Carharts and went out to find the tree we’ve had in mind since the beginning of it all.
I don’t know how to explain the magic I feel every winter I’m lucky enough to trudge behind that man in the snow on a hunt for our tree. It’s like the world goes calm and quiet, the wind stops blowing and my toes and fingers warm up.
It’s my favorite moment of the season, finding myself alone out here on the snowy acres my family has kept for almost a hundred years alongside a man I have known since we were children, searching for a little piece of our world we can bring inside and give a new life.
I remember every Christmas tree we’ve had together. I remember the first year’s drive out into the east pasture with a pickup and a small puppy. I remember how my new husband drug it up the hill with a rope. I remember the sun going down and the tires spinning as we backed up off the hill and got stuck.
I remember the puppy puke and the laughter and thinking about the long, dark walk home.
I remember getting unstuck and falling in love again as we pulled that oversized tree through the door of our tiny house and found a spot for it. I remember how it smelled.
Fast forward to the second Christmas spent tucked between mountains in eastern Montana, so far away from the familiar but together in a small apartment on the edge of town. There was no extra money that year and no Christmas tree, just a pretty centerpiece sitting on our table as a reminder of the season before we packed up and headed toward home for the holiday.
The third tree was purchased in the dark in a parking lot in a town a little closer to home and brought back to a house we were tearing apart and putting back together, the first house we purchased together. The tree had long pine needles and it didn’t smell like cedar or anything really. There was a fight about candy canes and tinsel and I cried while I put up the lights. I was unhappy, I think…or lonesome or out of place and something about that tree reminded me. There was no tree in that house the next year and after that I vowed I would never cry over Christmas again.
And I never did. We pointed our car north toward the ranch and moved back into that little house where we brought our first cedar tree in from the cold and promised one another that each Christmas we would do the same, no matter what.
We put lights on one more cedar in that little house while we planned for our future. We bundled up against the elements and fulfilled our promise to one another, speaking quietly into the hills that hold us all so close together.
I want to stand on top of those hills and scream that I take none of this for granted.
I want to open my arms and praise this life and the family who helped build it.
I want to say it out loud as if saying it will protect me from all there is that could lift this feeling of peace from my heart and set it adrift.
But for today, for this Christmas season, I will hold that feeling close. I will sit beneathe the cedar tree standing ten feet tall under the roof of our new forever home, its branches heavy with bulbs and lights and Christmas spirit, and I will breathe in its scent be grateful for today, for this life while I’m here.
Because we are not promised anything on this earth but a chance.
And I have been given so many gifts.