The Tree

Christmas time has begun again. One of the exciting things about this time of year has been the tree. We get to experience a different tree each year. This year was a different type than in years past. The kind of tree my mom had while growing up just outside Portland. We also spent many prior years with a Noble Fir. In recent years, our family had opted for changing the type of tree. The Alpine we had switched to was smaller in build. The trunk was slenderer, with ample spacing between branches. The Alpine was still the tree I opted for this year. Part of my joy around Christmas time has always been the lights. A passion passed on to me from my father. So, when the type of tree changes, the way the tree might be lit could change. The Alpine has provided challenges throughout the years. With the empty space between branches, the lights took extra time. This year, the Noble Fir would provide a different lighting experience. The tree was much fuller. Meaning there are more branches along the trunk. The fuller bodied tree can might lighting easier, but it tends to take longer. Unless we decide to change the entire process of lighting the Christmas Tree.

My father seemed to light the tree traditionally, with twinkling white lights. They were great light strings passed on from his father. The lights were small and had good length between each light. Providing flexibility on where each light was able to be placed. The small light strings we use today are void of the distance between each light. Making them more challenging to decorate the tree. As, attempting to have each light set against the trunk or branch has the tree looking organized. This concept doesn’t seem to work all the time. It has been the idea I have always worked with. Whether lighting the tree inside the house, or a bush outside in the yard. Years have been spent working with the small white strings. With the Alpine, the process took time. Attempting to wind the strings around branches and back toward the trunk. When reaching the top, things could get even more interesting. The upper section of these trees had even greater spaces between branches. Meaning anchoring each of the small white lights was nearly impossible. Adding to the challenge was working from the ladder. Many times, it just wouldn’t work out, lights would be drifting on their own, without part of the tree to call home. The only one who truly cared about such things was me, but Christmas lights have always been a fulfilling passion.

Years ago, time was running out, and we still hadn’t acquired our Christmas tree. We drove through town, coming across a small tree lot. Mom had spotted trees looking appealing. They were Alpines that I hadn’t really seen in person to that point. We pulled in and began walking around the small area they occupied. There weren’t many options, as we had terribly procrastinated that year. However, the Alpine trees they had were so uniquely cool, we would have enjoyed any of their trees. Slowly combing through the options, one was chosen. The trees were so great and people so friendly, we asked about when they opened the following year. Surely, thinking about guarding against repeat procrastination the next Christmas. The kind owners gave us their card, telling us to call in November and come by their home to pick out our tree. They would have trees being prepared the first of November. For over ten years now, we have called the first week of November. Driving out to their home and selecting our tree. The process of selecting our Christmas tree took another turn this year, changing the way we light the tree as well.

We hadn’t changed our November process in years. However, they had changed the way trees were purchased from them. In the past, few years they have begun an entirely Christmas experience. In Snohomish, Washington at a place called Dairyland. Last year was our first to travel out to Dairyland. We had already found our tree, but were in search of Christmas wreaths. There before they had completely set up for the year, you could already see how magical it was. The long building was being filled with crafts and small gifts from different vendors. The trees were being spread over a couple small rolling hills. While the large fire would burn in the center, surrounded with benches to enjoy the experience. It was much more than a tree farm, they had created an entire experience. Something they had always envisioned. After finally experiencing the farm last year, we decided to gain the full experience this year. While walking around on that day last year, mom had spotted her next Christmas tree. It would be different from the trees of recent seasons. The one mom picked out, left me looking forward to this Christmas.

The Christmas season had finally arrived. We didn’t make contact in the first days of November. Waiting until just after Thanksgiving to pursue the tree. We were in search of the Noble Fir, eyed last year. Then, an Alpine for my home. Just as it went on at their home, it didn’t take long to find a great tree. The choices were narrowed to two trees. While mom walked between them a couple times, the decision was made. The tree would be pretty full of the Noble Fir variety. Like the tree stopping mom in her tracks the previous year. Mine stood up around the corner, topping one of the small hills on the property. We had meandered through the path with beautiful trees on both sides. They all looked great. About the fourth tree we considered struck the festive cord. Our next stop would be picking out wreaths and garland. Made on the property with meticulous care, they are all unique. We looked through them for a moment, understanding by view, we couldn’t possibly go wrong. The wreaths and garland were selected. Into the main building we went, taking time to shop the vendors gathered for the season. Some ideas were stored away for the possible return. We engaged in our yearly chat with the owners and found our way back to the car. Our trees had been loaded into the bed of a friend’s truck, who has been kind enough to usher our trees home each year. The service of taking care of the tree after it becomes chosen has been amazing. You just make the choice and Dairyland takes care of the rest. As we walked out of the main building, I noticed something that would bring us back to the farm.

While walking out of the main building at Dairyland something caught my eye. There was a Christmas tree decorated to the side of the sliding door. The unique quality of this tree were the lights causing it to glow. They had used bulbs larger than the mini lights used on most Christmas trees. These looked to be C-9 lights. Which most commonly outline the houses we drive pass in our neighborhood. The vision was noted with the thought of bringing up the concept later. However, I still wasn’t totally sold on the new approach. As the tree made itself into mom’s home. Standing in its reserved space for each Christmas. A couple days were spent admiring and contemplating the idea. Coming and going from mom’s, which has always been the hub of our family, became normal years ago. Finally, the concept felt right, so I floated the idea. Instead of the C-9, my thought was a C-7 bulb might look good. It would be slightly smaller, but still provide change from the mini lights. Mom thought it a unique idea, but I felt it would be good to see before making the final judgement. We drove back out to Dairyland and took a look. Mom enjoyed the new concept for lighting the tree. Thinking the larger bulb would provide a different feel to our Christmas tree. So, the following day we got started on lighting the Noble Fir.

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We used the light strings previously outlining the garage doors. They were of the C-7 variety and clear in color. The lighting of the Christmas tree would be different with these strings. With more distance between bulbs on the string, the process wouldn’t be as tedious. It seemed added creativity could enter from the flexibility. As the journey began, the thinking came into reality. The process with the larger light bulbs was more enjoyable. We could place bulbs in the areas we wanted to be lit, instead of feeling confined to where the string led. No longer was there an absolute need to wind the string back into the trunk. The added space between bulbs gave the ability to jump from branch to branch. Along with the freedom came the greatly reduced time spent lighting the Christmas tree. Gone were the days of procrastination due to frustration, cerebral palsy making it challenging to manipulate those mini strings. Lighting the tree took no more than a couple hours, with time spent enjoying the process. Where previous years took days to complete the task. In the end, we seem happy with the Christmas tree this year. We may go back to the more tradition mini lights in the future. But, the new concept provided fresh fun to lighting the Christmas tree.

Each year many of us fill this time of year with tradition. Seemingly having much more to do with the people, than the place or experience. Once a year we get to spend time with Guy and Mary. Often that time spent has been fleeting, maybe an hour or two, throughout the cold months of November and December. So, how then, we might wonder, can a strong bond be formed between people who share such a limited amount of time. How do the words to that song go, “through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow…?” Maybe, we simply explain it with the unseen magic of Christmas. Dairyland has been created out of that love for this special time of year. It begins with Guy and Mary, as it fills the air when you step onto the farm at Dairyland. Heading out to Snohomish might be a bit of a drive, but it’s worth the trip. They have all kinds of fun things going on. Get a great tree, wreath, garland, Christmas gnomes, and shop local vendors with unique gifts. You can always sit around the fire and take in the fun. Or, steal the creative decorative ideas they have. Whatever the holidays have in store, it has always been a fun way to get them started. Spending some time catching up with good friends.

 


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