Eightball and Thundercloud's RANT

In Search Of The Perfect Christmas Tree Part II
The Tradition Continues - December 8, 2006

It doesn't seem like another year has passed since my son and I went on our last annual search for the perfect Christmas tree. But the days and weeks and months flew by. And here it was that time of the year again. I could hardly believe it when my son came home the day after Thanksgiving to spend the weekend at home - and it was time for our traditional Christmas tree adventure. It seems but a moment ago we were our there at Granny's Christmas Tree Farm searching for that perfect Christmas tree. Could it really be Christmastime again, already?

It has been our tradition now for thirteen years to travel about the countryside searching for the perfect Christmas tree. When the tradition began, he was a boy of twelve and neither of us had any idea then that we were beginning a tradition that would last for decades. I will go with him as long as the Good Lord is willing and he plans to continue the tradition with his children and his children's children long after I'm gone. And perhaps the tradition we began thirteen years ago will last in our family for a hundred years.

But the day the tradition began - we had no idea a tradition was beginning.

Despite how we  plan special days, vacations, birthday parties, and other events in our lives, isn't it strange the most special moments in life just happen? They are not planned. The most beautiful memories are not created as the result of carefully laid plans - they just happen. I don't think anyone plans to start a tradition - it just happens. And perhaps that is the way it should be. Beautiful days and beautiful memories; those special magical moments in life happen when they are least expected. We don't look for them; they look for us. I mean I really don't think it could be any other way could it? Maybe the most special moments  that become the most special memories are a reward for doing good things and caring for and loving others. If we could make those special moments happen by planning them we'd all have a lot more of them. But if we had a lot more of them they wouldn't be so special. It is a good thing we cannot make special moments happen when we want them. It is a good thing that they are given to us when we deserve them. I am fortunate that I have many special moments and memories with my two special sons. The one who goes on the hunt with me for the perfect Christmas tree and the one who doesn't.

I am a lucky man. I have two sons as different as night and day. They are each beautiful in their own way. I have different traditions with each of them. My youngest son, though, is the one who believes in the perfect Christmas tree. And, he believes in the perfect tree symbolically. It does not mean it is the perfect Christmas tree but it means the tree is perfect for us. Our Christmas tree is a symbol of Christmas when family and friends gather near the end of the year to share memories, friendship and love. Our perfect Christmas tree may not be perfect to anyone else but whichever tree my son picks out I know it will be the prefect for us.

I don't think when your in the midst of of memory you realize that you're making one. And you don't know when you're busy making a memory if it will become a special one. And that is a good thing. I don't believe when we set out this year in our annual quest for the perfect Christmas tree we realize it might be one of the most special of all.

Unlike last year when the weather was perfect for Christmas tree hunting - this year "The Day" dawned sunny and unusually warm.

A perfect Christmas-tree-hunting day is one where the weather is "Christmassy". To those of us here in northern Ohio that means chilly temperatures and snow flakes wafting gently down from a leaden, winter sky. The kind of day that requires warm clothing, gloves, boots and hats. But this year it was short sleeve shirts, sunglasses, and tennis shoes. It sure didn't seem much like a day for Christmas tree hunting. It sure didn't seem much like Christmas at all. But Christmas is more than snow. Christmas is more than trees, presents, and good times. Christmas is much more. For my son and I, it is the most special time of all.

While the weather was nowhere close to "perfect" this year's Christmas tree trek turned out to be very special Christmas indeed. Both my son and I shared some very special moments; made some very special memories; and perhaps most important of all, were gently reminded of one of the most important lessons of life. And maybe what we learned this year made it more special than most.

Last year, our Christmas tree hunt took us all over the countryside (you can read about last year - by clicking here). We spent the entire day sloshing around in snow, mud, and cold temperatures - my pickup truck got stuck in the mud -hot chocolate was the "drink of the day" - it was perfect! The weather couldn't have been better for a Christmas tree hunt. We went to five or six different Christmas tree farms scattered over a radius of thirty miles. No place too far, no weather too bad, no mud too deep; nothing can stop us when we're on "The Quest".

This year, the sun was shining, the air was warm, not a cloud in the late-November sky. I thought - the sky's too blue, the cloud's too few - the weather's too warm - this won't be a special year at all. You know it is bad weather for Christmas tree hunting when you're driving about the countryside with your windows rolled down and sunglasses on! But, I thought wrong, because looking back on it now, it was to be very a very special day even without the snow, mud and hot chocolate.

This trek took place two weeks ago, so though it's still fresh in my mind, I've had some time to look back upon it and to reflect. I've talked about the day with my son since then and we agree that this year's hunt was a special one indeed - but special for a different reason than last year's.

Last year we went to the place we lovingly referred to as the "Old Oak and the Christmas Tree Place" which was really called, believe it or not, "Granny's Christmas Tree Farm". Although, truth be known, "granny" was actually a 60ish man named "Bob".

When we found our perfect Christmas tree last year at the Old Oak and the Christmas Tree Place, we actually had found two trees, almost equally perfect. My son chose the one he thought was more perfect and we agree that "next year" (this year) we'd go back and get the one we passed over. We memorized its location and knew that next year's search would be more about wandering through the acres and acres of farm property, visiting our favorite "Old Oak", chatting with Bob, sawing down the Christmas tree with one of Bob's old, rusty tree saws, loading it in the back of the truck and driving home - than about cavorting about the countryside going from farm to farm searching for that elusive, perfect tree.

John Lennon once wrote that "life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans". I guess that's the best way to describe this year's quest.

Believe it or not, each year we get lost looking for Granny's Christmas Tree Farm (it is way out in the country in a very rural area). So, each year, neither my son or I can ever remember exactly how to get there. In fact for a few years we simply couldn't find it, although it was the site of the very first annual Christmas Tree Hunt, a friend of mine had taken my son and I that year - he's the one who actually introduced us to "Christmas Tree Hunting". Before that, our family always had an artificial tree - which I suppose could be "perfect" too - depending on your perspective.

Well, thank goodness for cell phones, because the last few years I've called my friend while driving around the "wilderness" - stretches of road only a horse could love - and asked for directions. I usually get an earful of good-natured expletives - and have to listen to my friend calling me stupid because I have no sense of direction, especially in a forsaken place like the rural area surrounding Wakeman (never mind, you don't want to live there). So anyway, after getting my annual lecture on being stupid from my friend (with my son laughing in the background - and I don't know why he laughs because he can't find the place either!) we found Granny's - and we found something else.

There were two big white signs hanging on two chains draped across the entrance - in big red letters the signs said "CLOSED". And, just on the left side of the entrance, there was a "For Sale" sign, a box with pamphlets describing the property, and a number to call if one was interested in buying the place.

We couldn't believe our eyes. All our thoughts about the perfect Christmas tree what we knew awaited us beyond the blocked entrance, changed. We thought about Bob and remembered that he had told us last year that he had to go in for some medical tests in February. We wondered if something had happened to Bob. Had he passed away? Was he sick? Or did he just get tired and decide to sell the farm. All those lovely treed acres were blocked from us for now - and maybe forever. And the Christmas tree we came back to get, the one we knew for sure would be right there waiting for us, the one we almost chose last year and the one my son and I had planned on making this year's perfect Christmas tree, was now out of our reach.

My son and I realized that the purpose of this year's annual Christmas tree hunt was to remind us gently that life is precious; time is precious; and no matter what we plan to do, those plans are always subject to change. Life goes by and we don't often think of its brevity. It's human nature to think things will always be as they are. Granny's Christmas Tree Farm gave us something even more special this year than last year. It reminded us that life short and our time on this earth is limited. Moments wasted and moments gone forever. When you say goodbye to someone, you may be saying goodbye to them for the last time. When we said goodbye to Bob last year we said, cheerfully, "see you next year!". It was not to be and we may never see that old oak again either.

There were two big white signs hanging on two chains draped across the entrance - in big red letters the signs said "CLOSED". And, just on the left side of the entrance, there was a "For Sale" sign, a box with pamphlets describing the property, and a number to call if one was interested in buying the place.

My son who is twenty-five, is wiser though than his years, and he recognized life's gentle reminder of its harsh lesson that no matter how much we want things to stay as they are, the one thing we can all count on is that they won't. We all fight the good fight with time. But we all lose. It just a matter of when. We struggle to keep some order in our lives and try to keep things from changing even though we know for certain they will.

We eventually found the perfect Christmas tree, just down the road from Granny's, and my son and I had a wonderful time once again.  Those special moments happened again - but they were not the special moments we expected. We tried to plan special moments and it cannot be done. They must just happen. And they did. Sometimes the most special moments of all are the ones that, at first, seem the least special.

Yes, it's true. This year, the weather was not anything like Christmas. When I look back I see he and I walking and talking and laughing in the sun. I didn't think this year's quest would be nearly as special as the ones in the past - but I was wrong. We shared our special moments this year and found the perfect tree - but even more than that - we were gently reminded that the only thing you can count on is this moment. Tomorrow may never come and yesterday is gone.

But as long as we live we have memories and even time cannot change our most precious memories. My son will have memories of these special days with me and he can keep them alive though his children. And his children will have memories of the times they share with him.

And hopefully the annual Christmas tree hunt will continue and the memories my son and I have made will continue for a long time to come.

This Christmas, as you gather with your loved ones and friends, I hope you'll think about Granny's Christmas Tree Farm and the lesson we learned.

My son and I  may never see the Old Oak and The Christmas Tree Place again, but the memories we make and share will always be ours to keep.

And the memories you make this Christmas will always be yours to keep. Make some great ones with those you love.

May you and your family experience the joy and love of Christmas this season. And may the spirit of Christmas live within you all the days of your life.

Merry Christmas!

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