Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My Mother's Xmas Tree

(Sorry Mom, just had to share!)

For those of you who haven't been to the farm, my mom and step dad live at the edge of a large forest, and have 40 wooded acres. Among other trees, there are thousands of spruce, balsam, pine, birch and maple trees covering the back 40. Ever since we moved out there at Xmas 1978, we've tromped through the woods to cut down our Christmas tree. (See my Xmas Survey for a story about Pastor Hanson's "lovely" tree we cut down from back there one year.) Yes, there's a big hill going down to the creek on the back 40, and trees growing on the hillside have a curve in the trunk which has taught us of the importance to wire the Xmas tree to the wall so it won't fall over during dinner (see my Xmas survey for a story about that, too.)

I have to say that part of the fun involved in tromping through the back 40 is taking giant steps to walk through last week's snowfall. The snow is just deep enough to creep over the tops of your mid-calf-high boots and drip down past your ankles...not to mention the snow rash you get when walking across snow crust that you think is thick enough to support your weight - only to find out that six steps into the crust, your right foot sinks down, again about mid-calf. The crust is just strong enough to tug your pants out from your boot, exposing your toasty leg to anything under the crust. In an amazing balancing feat, (you don't want to fall over and make the situation worse*) you lift your right foot to get it out of the snow to discover the crust is also strong enough to hold your right boot hostage. You have also discovered the wonderful science of weight displacement, or whatever it is, that caused the crust to break through when you shifted all your weight to the left foot. Now you're standing on one leg, waving a sock covered right foot in the air, trying to decide if you will be able to slide your foot back in the boot if you poke your foot back into the same hole you just made in the snow crust. Did I mention that you're developing a nice case of snow rash on your left leg? Of course you are, and it's getting numb and starting to bleed. You poke your right foot back into the hole in the snow, and snag your toes on the edge of the boot as your foot slips back into place. At the same time, it occurs to you that all the loose snow between the crust and the top of your boot was pushed into the boot when you stuck your foot back in there. It is starting to melt and your sock is soaking wet and coOoOoOold. You stand there, grumbling. "Any tree is fine. Just cut one down and let's go.” But nooooo, everyone else wants to go deeper into the woods and keep looking for the perfect tree. One that is guaranteed to fall over no matter how securely you wire it to the wall.

*At least you maintained your balance while standing around on your left leg. The other scenario is that as you pull your right foot out of the stuck boot, you fall over onto and into the crust. Your warm butt, which is not clad in a waterproof snowmobile suit, melts the soft snow under the crust, and cold seeps up your spine. That gap between the top of your pants and the bottom of your shirt, which wasn't quite long enough to tuck in, has allowed a trickle of cold melted snow to go down your crack. You feel snow rash start to develop on the small of your back. You try to stand up and everyone laughs at you. The crust is just strong enough to with stand the weight of your legs, and kicking the crust does nothing to crack the icy layer on top of the snow, and so your feet and shoulders are a good 18" higher than your butt, which is now developing a nice case of frostbite. Is that a rock or an exposed tree root bruising your tailbone and left butt cheek? One person in your party stops laughing at you long enough to stick their hand out and help you get up. (That's only because they're the only one afraid of you when you're mad.) Forgetting that your right boot is not on your foot but is still buried somewhere in the crust, you stand up. You stagger from the shock of the cold all over your foot and the jagged snow crust scrapes an angry red mark across your right shin. You teach your Christmas tree hunting companions some new words: &%@#*!! and &^$*#@&!!! Unless of course, you've invited the church pastor and his family out to hunt for Christmas trees with you. Then you tell them the trees near the edge of the woods are usually the nicest. And the flat side will make it set up against the wall much better than if the tree was perfectly round. But nooooo, they're throwing snowballs (at you) and having a great time, singing Christmas songs and eating the pristine snow off their mittens, and they want to forge onward.

Oh, hunting for the perfect Christmas tree in the woods is such a joy and the perfect way to start the Christmas season.

My parents also have a big wood furnace that supplies most of the heat to their home each winter. In addition to the big outdoor wood-burning furnace, there's a cast iron wood stove in the living room, and every time I think of the words "cozy" or "winter" or "fireplace" I mentally smell the wood smoke from the wood stove, and hear the quiet roar of the fire, the soft whoosh of air being sucked into the stove through the little vent dials on the door of the stove, the clank of the door being opened, and the hiss of water evaporating from the old tea kettle to add a little humidity to the normally dry air. By the way, did you know that a spark from their big outdoor furnace ignited the woodpile this fall? The fire dept sent a truck and saved a good a portion of this winter's fuel, so they'll be ok. I hope.

But I digress.

I mention these things to establish that my parents have trees and they also have tools with which to chop down trees. Imagine my horror when Mom sent back the Xmas survey to me with this answer to the Christmas Tree Question:

2. Real tree or Artificial?

Hm. She must have lost her boot or fallen over in the snow.

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