We've decided to make an excursion with two of our beautiful offspring, in from out of town. That's why we drive with them down dirt roads past blue spruce and white spruce and Douglas fir. This is a Christmas tree farm. "Doesn't Douglas Fir sound like the name of a confederate general," Alex asks.
Because we are in Virginia, in the heart of the countryside. Rosalind keeps trying to imagine how our lives would be, if Ben and I were to retire out here. "You see?" she says. "If you lived here, people would come and visit you on the weekends. We'd go on walks. Look at this beautiful countryside? You would live here.. And that woman, the one selling pumpkin butter and jars of blackberry jam - she'd be one of your friends..."
Yes. That's super. Yes. I'd like that. In theory. Waking up each morning under an enormous sky, with the rolling hills before me, and the mountains on the horizon - and the pancake diner down in the center of town where we'd take our breakfasts. Yes of course. That could be our life.
Meanwhile, we examine different trees. There's a Dr Seuss tree with a gap in the middle - maybe we should choose something like this - or else something along these lines - this a tall slender tree, with an element of eccentricity.
|Hmm... might this be the very tree, the one of our dreams|
Except it might be too tall for our ceilings.
Then there's this one, Ben suggests. Perfect in circumference. Sure there's a bald spot - but that part would be against the wall.
|Tree hugger, Ben|
It becomes all important to choose the right one.
And there are others too - Charlie Brown Christmas trees which need a few seasons to grow and which nevertheless break my heart.
Why don't we chose one of these?
The excursion is the thing. Because in the end there will always be a tree. We'll position it in the stand. Decide which room in which it should be placed. Then we will proceed to adorn it with the usual ornaments, those with which we have adorned all our trees in the past. Do we remember them individually ? Not at all. Does that matter? No, again.
It's all about the excursion. And after the excursion will come the ritual decoration. And after that come more and more rituals. Feasts, preparations, present givings. Laughter. Engagement. A meal or even two meals of importance, shared.
Also, we get ourselves tied up in knots about how that Christmas meal should be prepared and who will do the cooking. But actually in the end, it's only about being together and feeling a sense of occasion.
A meal shared. Some commemoration involving presents and a tree. Most of all, it isn't so much about something to wrap our presents in as it is about an occasion - to wrap our family in.