By Brenda Sexton
As I sit here in front of the fireplace, my hands, and feet, have finally thawed enough for me to type.
It’s been hours since the Sexton family headed to the hills today on a quest to find the perfect Christmas tree.
There was a time, when loading up the truck and heading up state Route 410 for a Christmas tree was an annual event. It was something my family sometimes did when we were kids. After I returned from college, my dad and I would skip out of work on a Friday and venture up together. He always made fun of me for getting the Charlie Brown tree and then on my cub reporter’s salary using my 1980s earrings as tree ornaments.
The last couple years, the Sextons have stayed out of the woods for reasons we can’t even remember, but Sunday the bug bit again.
It played out like a MasterCard commercial: Christmas tree permit from the U.S. Forest Service, $10; quarter tank of gas at $2.80 a gallon; chiropractic bill from sliding down icy hill unintentionally on your backside, $30 co-pay; watching your teenagers and chocolate Lab chase each other around in the snow laughing like they were preschoolers again: priceless.
Unlike some of our other adventures up the hill, this one was uneventful, in a good way. The roads were clear so my honey didn’t have to get out and chain up our four-wheel drive or help pull anyone out of a ditch. There was snow, but it wasn’t thigh-high and difficult to navigate. There wasn’t enough to run our sled, but the hillside had plenty of spots that were slick enough to belly-thump – or in my case, butt whump. There was a man videotaping, so readers may be able to catch my escapades on YouTube or Funniest Home Videos.
The clothes we cobbled together from our misfit collection of winter wear kept us plenty warm in the freezing weather. The breeze that was blowing added a chill factor, but we all fared well. We didn’t even touch the hot cocoa in the thermos until we got home.
It was clear. From our location near the top of Haller Pass, the view was incredible, stunning seems inadequate. It’s so vast. The forest stretches forever, yet it’s less than an hour from home. And even though we were three with plenty of other families, it was quiet with a stillness that was inspiring.
But it was the hunt for the perfect tree that drove us higher and higher through the crunchy snow up the mountain.
After much searching, we found it.
A regal Nobel fir with beautifully-spaced branches, at least until we realized we had sheared a few of them off as we hauled it back through the forest and down the hill.
As we admired its simple, elegant beauty and breathed in its evergreen scent, we hardly noticed the handful of missing branches.
There were still plenty left for hanging lights and ornaments.
Like the other Christmas tree hunting trips we were recalling as we went up and down the mountain, this one will become part of the family album. Sometimes the kids wonder why we keep that old truck. We usually point out it runs and it’s paid for, but Sunday we discovered, there are a lot of memories stored up in that ’98 Chevy.