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BLOG-Leaps Over Ruts

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Saturday brightened up nicely for a fall day. The warm sunlight allowed us put aside our gloves and jackets and made the village a popular spot for the weekend. By the time, we arrived at Youngs’ Christmas tree farm, the business was bustling. It was ten minutes past 4pm when we got there. I know this as my husband hurried us out into the field. He checked his cell phone to see how much daylight we had left. We had an hour before the sun set and the all-but-full moon would rise.

Jeremy and the kids had spent Saturday afternoon preparing the living room. They cleared toys, dusted shelves, vacuumed the floor, and moved furniture. My job was to gather all the library books we had to return to the Greene County and Dayton Metro systems. We’d gone a little crazy in the book borrowing department of late and together discovered the upper limit of lending: 75 items. Now was the time to scale down, reset.

I may have been looking for borrowed books but really I spent the time coaching myself. In the month ahead I saw a minefield where, if I was not careful, anger and frustration would supplant joyful anticipation. As a family, we may look forward to the winter traditions—picking out a tree, stringing up the lights, decorating the house—but I have a bad habit of taking over those customs. The holidays bring out my tyrannical tendencies. We may look forward to performing the seasonal traditions as a family but, left unchecked, I wind up doing these things for the family. Or, rather, to the family. It is high time I stop letting my need to have things-just-so sabotage us.

So I asked myself “Dear, can you possibly let the children pick out the tree?”

Look how well the front window turned out, I told myself. We painted the window first for beggars night at the end of October. As in prior years, I soaped a drawing of a jeering jack-o-lantern on the front bay window. I was painting the outline in black when the kids gathered around. They picked up paint brushes and elbowed their way in. I stood back and let them work. Simple as that. It was fun to watch them. I walked outside to stand on the opposite side of the pane. As I watched, the details of the orange globed ghoul magically filled in. I peaked through parts of the unpainted glass and caught the kids’ smiles, grinning ear to ear as side by side they made steady progress. That simple sketch came into vibrant colorful relief.

We kept our mural up on the bay window through the Thanksgiving holiday. When the kids returned from visiting cousins, they declared time for a new mural. My husband set them up with adult tools—razored scrappers and Windex—and the kids took down their creation in the same happy comradery in which they put it up. To replace the pumpkin, we chose a reindeer, a nod to my son’s professed spirit animal. By nightfall, we rendered a leaping stag with a beaming red nose.

Back at the tree farm Saturday afternoon, the shadows were growing longer as I picked up an abandoned sled to transport our tree from the grounds. I covered a sharp-toothed saw with the sled’s carpet square and dragged the sled across the grass along the spine of the crowded parking lot. I met up with my husband, our kids, and our dog at the pathway into the tree forest. My daughter took the dog. My husband helped me tow as our seven year old son hopped in the sled for one of his last parent-powered rides into the maze of pine, fir, and spruce.

We crossed the bridge at the center of the property then turned north checking out the white pine and concolor fir along the edge of the creek. Turning south at the end of a row, we squinted into the sun…now suddenly at eye level and fading fast. We shook hands with a tall Canaan Fir, tempted briefly, before moving on towards the tallest white pine at the south side of the property. My daughter and I wore boots so here we could cross the creek where it was shallow but wide. The two of us crossed and walked the west bank of the ditch; the men walked the dog and sled parallel to us on the east bank. Just south of the bridge in the center of the property, my daughter and I jumped the creek and rejoined the men preparing to retrace our steps.

We looked again through the white pine to the east but my son looked west pointing to a grove of blue spruce saying “We should look over there.” We finished the row at the north end of the farm, crossed the creek as a family, and made our way past several tempting trees to the grove our son indicated. There stood a happy blue spruce; as soon as we saw it, we knew.

My son pulled out the carpet square, and the saw was handed to me. I laid down on the rug, squared my shoulders to the tree base, and cut. The kids watched as I drew the saw back and forth; my husband first drew the tree away from the saw and then towards and over to unbind the blade; one last draw and the saw cut clear.

Jeremy picked up the tree and eagerly dropped it into the sled prepared to pull it toward the barn. I held him back wanting to store the saw safety under carpet below the tree’s skirt. After a brief awkward shuffle rearranging sled’s contents, our daughter took up the reins and pulled the sled’s great load back to the parking lot. She dropped off the tree for packaging then asked if she could pick out the wreath for our front door. She found one decorated with a big white bow and lots of little shiny packages. She draped the wreath around her shoulder and rewarded her parents with a winning smile.

We escaped the maze of the parking lot returned to the house. The children unloaded wreath and dog. My husband released the tree from its bonds and placed it in a water-filled bucket to store overnight in the garage.

I looked down and kicked up my heels to check the soles of my boots. I found them blissfully free of mud and debris. That’s the result, my friend, when I overleap the ruts…and let other things happen.


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