Husband and I don’t have many traditions. Unless you count paddlefishing in May, sending him off to pheasant hunt in October and sometimes remembering our own anniversary enough in advance to buy a bottle of Champaign, I would call us sort of go with the flow type people.
Unless it comes to Christmas. We have traditions at Christmas. We eat pancakes and prime rib. I dip pretzels in chocolate and make a holiday shaped cheese ball. I dress the pug in a Santa suit. And we cut our own Christmas tree.
That Christmas tree thing, that’s my favorite one.
And since we moved back to the ranch we have held true to it being a magical sort of process, one that starts with a dreamy vision of the perfect cedar waiting lonely in the coulees of our favorite pasture in the sparkling snow and ends with us laughing and smiling under its boughs covered in twinkling glitter and lights.
And that’s how we remember it no matter the snow drifts, the chill or the one time when we got stuck miles from home and big brown dog puked in the pickup.
We remember it that way because our hunts usually end with a great tree. A tree that spoke to us under a beam of light. One that whispered “pick me, pick me” as we slowly walked toward its light shining down from the prairie sky. One that reached out its arms and asked to be ours, filled our house with the scent of holiday and became the backdrop to many nearly perfect Christmases spent on the ranch.
That didn’t happen this year.
This year we had one day. One hour on one frickin’ freezing Sunday before the sun went down to head out into the -25 degree sunset and find our Christmas centerpiece.
Because in the middle of a life that we seem to insist on overbooking, Christmas seemed to have snuck up and bit us in the ass.
So we had no plan. We had no direction. We just had our coveralls, a saw, each other and one mission.
To fulfill our Christmas tradition.
And what we brought home isn’t pretty.
No, not really.
It’s sort of twisted and it leans and turns to the left. The branches are spindly, they gap and sag and have grown so accustomed to the relentless prairie wind that they have yet to relax so that while it is perfectly calm in the little house we’ve built, that tree, safe and sound under our roof, seems to make us believe that the wind is still blowing.
But you know what else it makes me believe? That Charley Brown, Grinchy little cedar covered in bulb and lights?
That it doesn’t matter.
That it’s sort of perfect for us, really. Perfect for us and this year we’ve spent muddling through plans that just don’t quite turn out right. Perfect for a man who falls of ladders and a woman who falls of ledges into snow banks in the middle of Main Street.
Perfect for a couple that doesn’t make time to keep up with the laundry or the dishes and spends way to much time eating noodles and not enough time doing sit-ups.
So when I reached for the 175th Christmas bulb, that carbohydrate loving, overly ambitious carpenter husband of mine told me to stop.
No more bulbs.
The tree is good.
The tree is his favorite.
Because it’s like us.
Just happy to be here and trying its best.
Coming Home: A perfect Christmas includes plenty of imperfections
By Jessie Veeder