As the holidays rolled around, I drooled over social media pictures of homes festooned with holiday decor. Rooms were stuffed with stuff, many looking like they were not even meant to be used. Couches and chairs had pillows flowing over onto the floor in a deliberate way. They spelled out “Joy” and “Family” in colored ribbons, but, in reality there was no where for family to sit. I started mentally comparing myself to the bloggers with picture perfect holiday homes, camera-ready for the cover of Country Living Magazine. I will admit, I had Christmas envy.
I walked the aisles of home stores where every square inch teased with some festive Christmas what-not, made in China. It was overwhelming, and it bit hard to resist. I dreamed of filling my family room with life-sized woodland creatures made of twigs and twinkle lights, with a Santa dressed as a lumberjack. Fake snow would be sprinkled everywhere. Perfectly good oranges, studded with $100.00 worth of whole cloves, would be left to rot on the kitchen counter. Pears and pomegranates would be brushed with egg whites, sprinkled with sugar, and placed in an antique silver bowl on the dining room table, never to be eaten. The beds would be dressed in holiday duvets and piled high with festive pillows. After everything was perfect, I would go room-to-room taking photographs of all the happiness. I would post a Holiday Home Tour of my house that would send my stats soaring. It would be a Christmas to remember!
But none of that happened.
What did happen, was that I found myself in Home Goods, shoving around a cart laden with artificial Christmas stuff. There were holiday signs to hang on the walls, luminaria to line the driveway, fake candles, and pillows and throws for the couches and beds. The cart was so full, that I was going to have to make a second trip to pick up Santa and the reindeer. Then it hit me. I was in a long line with a few dozen other people with the same items in their carts. I asked myself what the heck was I doing? All these things that caught my eye would be enjoyed for a couple of weeks, then boxed and bagged up and dragged up into the garage rafters until next year. And, that cart full of stuff wouldn’t even begin to be enough for that Holiday Home Tour blog post that I was planning. It would just make me a lesser, wanna-be holiday home blogger, without so much as a blip on the old stat meter. The only blip would be in my bank account. I got out of line, retraced my steps and put back all those things I thought I needed. I had everything I needed for Christmas at home already and that was where I headed.
I had given away the artificial tree and most of my Christmas stuff to family when we moved. All I kept was a little wall hanging that spells C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S and my beloved chicken ornaments, of course. I still needed a few things, but a quick trip to Michaels during the 70% off sale got me all that.
But I needed a tree. I needed a tree that wouldn’t have to be boxed up and shoved into the rafters after Christmas. I needed a real tree. I looked around at Christmas tree lots but the trees were expensive and already shedding their needles. Most were once-round trees, cut into the shape of a Christmas tree. I didn’t see anything I liked. I looked at live trees, but they were tiny, really expensive, and not recommended to be indoors more than a few days at most. Again, not for me, this year.
After doing a little research and finding out that I wouldn’t be destroying the planet and would be supporting local agriculture, I decided to ask Michael to take me to cut a fresh tree at a Christmas tree farm.
Michael, Tucker, and I headed out the next morning dressed as if we would be hiking the trail of the Donner party. Parkas, snow pants, boots, gloves, hats, and ear muffs all become overkill when riding to the Christmas tree farm on heated seats. After a 28 mile drive we arrived at Little Bear Tree Farm in Alta, CA. There wasn’t even a tiny bit of snow on the ground. But, the arctic gear came in handy on the ride up the hill to find our tree. Little Bear has a fleet of vintage Willys Jeeps with benches in the back to transport their guest up and down the steep hills. They hand you a big saw, give you a few seconds to climb in, and off you go to the top of the mountain.
Let me tell you, this is no ride for sissies, and I am a big sissie! Our driver took off like a bat outta’ hell and never missed a gully or bump for the entire ride. We were holding on for dear life. I had my $4,000.00 Canon camera squeezed between my thighs tight enough to shoot video. Michael had a death grip on poor little Tucker. The wind was freezing cold.
But, between screams, we were smiling all the time.
When we finally arrived at the top and got out of the truck I said to the driver, “You must be Mr. Toad.” He looked puzzled and asked, “Toad?” I said, “Yes, as in Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.” He laughed and said that maybe he should go a little slower over the bumps. Ya think? 🙂
When you get out of the Jeep they tell you to call on your cell phone when you have your tree cut and are ready to go back down. Cool, huh? Except we hadn’t brought a cell phone. Mr. Toad told us he would come back up in 20 minutes and see if we were ready. We headed out, thankful that we survived the Jeep ride and had our winter gear.
I think we were 2 minutes into the hunt for the perfect tree when the winter gear became unbearable. I now understand why mountain climbers start shedding their clothes in sub-zero weather when delirium sets in. I must have been delirious, because before long I was down to my tee-shirt and jeans, lugging a sweatshirt, parka, gloves, hat, earmuffs and my camera, all the while dragging Tucker.
Let me take a moment for a public service announcement.
NEVER TAKE A DOG TO A CHRISTMAS TREE FARM ON A RETRACTABLE LEASH. He is going to want to help the reforestation effort by peeing on every tree in the forest. He will circle the tree several times until he locates the perfect spot. By then, the leash will be wrapped around the trunk of the tree like garland. You’ll spend more time freeing your canine companion than you will looking for the perfect tree. Don’t make it worse by taking him off the leash completely. You’ll be screaming his name into the wind as he runs off to chase an imaginary squirrel on the other side of the mountain. Take your dog on a short leash, a very short leash.
Michael found a tree he wanted. Not gonna’ happen in my lifetime.
What Mama wants, Mama gets and that applies to Christmas trees too. Keep moving.
Eventually we both saw the same tree, at the same time, and knew it was the one. If we were lucky, we could have it cut and be back down the hill in time to catch our ride. Michael got it started.
And I brought it down!
We picked our coats up off muddy ground and made our way back down to the bus stop just in time. Our driver promised to take it a bit easy on the way back down, but it was still a white knuckle ride.
We paid for our tree, plus some hot cider and homemade fudge, and headed to the car. We decided to drive a little higher up into the Sierras to find some snow since we had the clothes for it! We found snow just up the road at Blue Canyon.
After playing in the snow we headed home with our fresh tree. It fit perfectly in the dining room corner.
I decorated it with mostly homemade ornaments, dried oranges, twigs and acorns from the yard, plus a few little treasures from the 70% off sale at Michael’s.
No one will know that my home is not chock full of Christmas treasures. The room-by-room Holiday Tour is not going to happen. I have a little Christmas scattered throughout our everyday things. There’s the wall hanging I held onto when we moved.
Here is an angel I bought from Linda, a new artist friend of mine.
and a little potpourri gift from Linda.
A sign from on my front door that says it all.
So that is my Christmas story and that was my epic Holiday Home Tour.
I have already forgotten all those holiday decorations I put back on the shelves at Home Goods, but I will always remember Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and spending time with people and dogs I love. MY holiday memories will last a lifetime and my decorations will fit in a box under my bed.