When we lived in Central Pennsylvania, Christmas trees were purchased from a nearby farm, the trees growing right there in a field facing the farm shop which sold homemade jams and sauces, candles, gardening supplies and the like. We came to the farm each week all through the spring, summer and fall to bring home fresh produce. The kids would wander among the growing Christmas trees, dreaming about snow and Santa. Most years we did not buy a tree at all since we took the kids to the midwest spend the holiday with family, but still, it was magical to walk among them when the first snows fell, the tang of pine in the air.
In Crowded, CA, Christmas trees are acquired in a decidedly less idyllic setting: mostly parking lots and dusty strips in sight of highways. When we first moved here, I found the ubiquity of bouncy castles at Christmas tree lots to be unexplainable. Soon I came to realize what purpose they served: “Bouncy house! Bouncy house! Mommy, Daddy, can we go there! Can we get a tree! Can we go there right now! Please, please, pleeeeeease?”
This year my parents and siblings came to us. We had not much time to prepare for their visit as we had just moved out of a rental and into a newly purchased home of our own, but we thought we would at least get a tree up before they arrived to make our empty house feel a little more festive and welcoming. The kids were overjoyed by this decision; they knew exactly which lot they wanted to buy our tree from: the one with a giant inflatable slide shaped like a sinking Titanic. (So Christmasy.) Upon arrival, Duncan and Wyatt ran past the trees without a second glance, straight to the slide.
“Do they need to take their shoes off?” I asked one of the employees.
“Yeah… maybe. If they want to,” he said. “I don’t really care.” And he didn’t. Nobody watched them or gave them instructions about how to ride the slide properly. We were the only customers there and Wyatt and Duncan had free reign over the slide and bounce house while Aaron, Milo and I checked out the trees (not many remaining this late in the season, the piney smell decidedly less crisp than I remembered from tree-shopping in PA). Once we had picked out a decent one, I took Milo over to see what his brothers were up to.
They were flying– I mean flying– over the nearly vertical slide by throwing themselves off the top with a jump and a whoop, landing with tremendous bounces near the bottom. It was awesome. I was also pretty sure someone would break an arm eventually if we didn’t get out of there soon. I stuck Milo in the bounce house, took a couple pictures, rode the slide myself and was just about ready to pull them out of there when two-year-old Milo insisted he have a turn on the slide, too. He climbed by himself but I followed behind, prepared to catch him if he should slip. About halfway up to the tippy top, his resolve seemed to waver.
“Hey, honey,” I said, putting an arm around him, “You know, you don’t have to ride the slide if you are feeling nervous.”
“No my nervous!” he scoffed, eyes round as saucers, heart pumping beneath his snowflake sweater. He shook his head and climbed on, repeating, “No my nervous, no my nervous, no my nervous…”
He sat next to me at the top, holding my hand and watching his brothers throwing themselves over the edge, screaming with laughter. “It my turn. My go now,” he said grimly. “No my nervous… no my nervous ’bout dis big… tall… big… gi-nant side.”
“Okay, then,” I said, “One, two, three, here we goooooo!” and we slid down together, my arm around him, his body stiff, legs braced and jaw stoically clenched. At the bottom, I looked into his face for a reaction.
“What did you think, Miley-Mo?”
“Whew, such fun,” he managed in a thin voice.
“Want to go again?” I asked.
“Oh. Hm. Maybe yater. Such fun. Such fun.”