The farm looked like something straight out of a Tolkien book.
I remember standing at the top of a small incline, looking out at the expansive greenery around me, swelling and rolling away like ocean waves. Pine trees of various shades and shapes sprouted up from the ground like tiny cottages in a village. The sharp smell of pine and the clean, invigorating scent of fresh air mingled in my nose. A thin stream cut through one of the many far off hills, a silvery vein, winking in the orange glow of the sun just beginning to set. My family walked beside me, my Mom and Dad to the left, and my twin brother, Harry, to the right. I remember the sound my brown boots made in the underbrush, crunching on the dead leaves and fallen needles, letting out a satisfying squelch as my foot came down on a muddy spot, stuck for a second, and then came away. All the while I scanned the trees as we passed, stopping every now and then to take a closer look.
Little kids weaved in and out between the evergreens like forest nymphs, their heavy winter jackets puffing out comically around them, looking all together like marshmallows with legs. I watched as their parents chased after them, some laughing outright and others trying, and failing, to be firm with them. It was as if we were all under the same spell, and that no matter how hard we may have tried, there was no way we could be at Pine View Farm and not be happy.
I don’t remember the exact things my family and I talked about as we continued along the rows of trees, but I remember the feeling of those conversations: joy and giddiness and cheer. But above all, I remember feeling so unbelievably thankful that I was with my family. The undeniable air of merriment that seemed to dance through Pine View Farm would have been considerably less magical if I wasn’t surrounded by the people I cared about most in the world.
Through all of this, there was still the task at hand: finding our christmas tree. And that, it turned out, was harder than I thought. After about an hour of searching and inspecting and yet more searching, we finally found it. The tree was small, exactly the way we wanted, and lush, with long, slim needles the dusty green color of mint leaves. I remember reaching out to run my fingers along the spine of the branch, feeling the needles part under the pressure of my index finger. The smell of the sap lingered on my fingertips like perfume, not the scent of pine as you would think, but of oranges. It turned out that that particular species of pine tree naturally smelled like citrus. I had never seen (or smelled) a tree like that before, and that was enough for me to know it was perfect for us.
The next step was to cut down the tree, to which Harry enthusiastically volunteered. Grasping the blade in one hand, he ducked down under the pine and began to saw the thin trunk. The serrated edge of the saw gnawed away at the wood with a rhythmic growl, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
Then a sound like firecrackers sparked out from the cut in the trunk, and my Dad yelled, “Timber!” as our tree fell.
After a brief struggle with the twine, our tree was tied snugly to the roof of our minivan, and we all packed into the car and drove away. The last few streaks of deep orange sky surrendered to dark purple, and then to the inky blue of night. I watched from the rearview mirror as the waves of hills fell away, framed by the back windshield, somewhat saddened by the fact that I could not stay at that beautiful place. But my sadness did not last long; I knew that next year I would see those familiar hills rise again.
Graphics: Jacqueline Weibye