We went to the Christmas tree farm yesterday, the whole lot of us. If, as they say, Christmas is for children, the main focus of our seasonal sentiment this year is my two-year-old niece Elanor — too young herself to possess an ounce of sentimentality, much less to understand all the folderol about Santa and sleigh bells. We thought she’d enjoy meeting the reindeer they have at the tree farm, though.
Last year, it had been my other niece, Eva. She was ten at the time. Both girls love animals, and are equally extroverted, but the differences in their reactions to the place were striking. Whereas Eva had been a little afraid of the reindeer initially, and then became entranced, Elanor showed no sign of fear, grabbing at a reindeer’s snout at the first opportunity. But then, much to our surprise, she grew bored and wandered off. She was much more attracted to the homely little brown-and-white dog that lives at the farm. It kind of makes sense. The reindeer were enormous, were on the other side of a fence, and were really only interested in one thing — treats. The dog, on the other hand, was Elanor’s size, with just about the same level of hyperactivity. She raced all around getting into things, as dogs will do, digging and sniffing, and led the way when we all trooped down the hill to find a tree. She had an odd way of running, with her hind legs appearing slightly out of alignment with her front — an old injury, perhaps. When she squatted to pee, I couldn’t help thinking that a male dog would’ve made much better use of all those thousands of tree trunks.
At one point, the dog stopped to take a crap with Elanor close behind. Steve had to run and pick her up before she could start playing with the intriguing little presents that had just popped out of the dog’s chimney. The dog trotted away with one turd still clinging to the fur on her hindquarters.
When deliberation over the tree started in earnest between Steve, Dad and me, Elanor charged off in the other direction, toward the backyard of an adjoining house that probably belonged to the tree farm people, given the dog’s familiarity with it. Mom and Karylee told us later that it was all they could do to keep Elanor from climbing through the fence to play with a small flock of very large Guinea fowl. The ersatz Africa was just a few hundred yards away from the faux Arctic.
We tend to prefer trees with a more open, natural look and several spires at the top, but since most of the trees on the farm have been pruned within an inch of their lives, it took some looking. We finally settled on a tree that had a large bird’s nest in it — possibly a catbird’s nest, I’m guessing. Steve and I took turns struggling to cut it down with a bow saw, which is also part of the tradition. It just wouldn’t seem right to carry a chainsaw.
After we got the tree all taken care of, I went back to look for the others. They’d made it as far as the road. Elanor had discovered a small puddle, and was stomping in it enthusiastically, splashing mud all the way up to her knees. “I just want you to know that Steve taught her to do that, not me!” Karylee said, watching her daughter with a mixture of amusement and dismay. “But who does the laundry?” I asked rhetorically. “Oh, well, mud washes out a lot more easily than most other things,” Karylee said. Mom managed to shoo Elanor out of the puddle, which prompted her to begin throwing stones in it instead. Gravel is one of Elanor’s favorite things.
The tree rode home in the back of the truck with all the dried grass and dead needles still attached — shaking it in the mechanical tree shaker might’ve dislodged the nest. Miraculously, when we got it home, the nest was still more or less intact. The tree sat outside until this morning — Christmas Eve — when Dad and I carried it in, according to inflexible family custom. Later this afternoon, Steve and Karylee are planning to show up with Elanor to help decorate it. My only hope is that Elanor will be as bored with the tree as she was with the reindeer, and decide to play in the kitchen, instead. Christmas may be for children, but let’s face it: when you’re two years old and surrounded by doting parents and grandparents, you can find Christmas pretty much anywhere you look.
Don’t forget to send in tree-related links for the upcoming Festival of the Trees.