Sunday Scribblings: Christmas memories

I wrote the following in 2004. And while my marital status has changed, and along with it my responsibilities as a step-parent, these events still rank up there as most memorable Christmas memories.

Trees, tears and thanks for the memories
The luster was definitely off this tradition about the fifth time Juneau clipped the back of my knees with a 4-foot snag she hoped I'd fling back into the woods.
"Its your own fault, you know," Juneau's owner said of the stout chocolate Lab's fondness for retrieving just about anything. "You started it, you played fetch with her."
Throw a drool-covered stick a couple of times and you're Juneau's friend - for life.
Friendships can only go so far, especially with your best friend's pet.
Juneau also fond of scooping up ponderosa pine cones, the prickly kind that can rip a retriever's nose and lips to shreds.
What Juneau lacks in restraint, she made up in a single-mindedness to broadcast thick ribbons of spectacularly crimson blood to pant legs, children's parkas and gloves.
Try telling a 9-year-old girly-girl - convincingly - that blood comes out of a happy colored, yellow parka.
"Eeeeeewwwww, gross," my former step-daughter, protested as she marched from stump to stump to rest/complain/rest/whine.
And we were in the forest supposedly to have fun.
For the past few years, the one family joined another family to go into the woods and cut down a tree for Christmas.
Simple, right? That tradition has survived battling dogs, bickering siblings, a snowstorm, a hangover (not mine), one unfortunate pants-wetting episode (again, not me), a snowball fight that escalated into tears (not me), one lost saw, gloves that vanished, arguments over hats, a knee surgery and hobbled rehabilitation (and threats to take it easy), more tears, the inevitable, "I have to go pee," when you're a dozen miles past the nearest rest stop, some cursing (OK, a lot of cursing) and the annual vow never again to venture forth into the wilds of a National Forest for a $10 tree, when they sell perfectly good ones in parking and vacant lots all over town.
Time always fuzzes the memories. At the exact moment the first hot toddy is happily into your system you're warm, laughing and joking - and making plans for the next year.
Despite your better judgment.
And judging by the line that snaked out the door at the U.S. Forest Service office, hot toddies have clouded many an adults level-headedness, especially when it comes to taking children, dogs, wives, husbands and friends into the snow-covered hills to hunt Christmas trees.
"Stop being such a Scrooge," my ex-wife gently scolded (this after trudging a total of 50 yards into the woods when my former step-daughter declared that she was cold - and tired). "If nothing went wrong, it wouldnt be a tradition, thered be no memories, it would be just a trip."
Which is true, of course. Nobody says, "Remember that time we went to the forest and nothing happened?" Holiday memories - the fondest ones, it seems - tend to be built on gentle calamities.
These trips start with good intentions. Then a child starts hacking and coughing and we make an unscheduled stop to pick up tissue and cough medicine (only to discover the bottle doesn't come with a handy plastic dose cup and now we have to persuade her to chug-a-lug Benadryl), because we've discovered she's percolating with a 99.9-degree fever.
But, hey, were on the road and the dogs are in back of the 4Runner (whining as well, as its been a few weeks since they've gone for a ride in the car). And since, darn it, you're out to have a good time - or else - you motor on to join the hundreds of other families battling their own demons in the woods to cut down a tree that the cats back home will eventually topple when curiosity gets the best of them.
One National Forest Christmas tree permit: $10.
Gasoline to get to there and back with tree: $32.50.
Lunch for a cold and unruly mob, including toddies and hot chocolate (that one child will refuse to drink because it 'tastes funny'): $72.78.
Making memories that will torment your friends and family for decades: Priceless.


susan said...

My first read at your blog. Definitely not my last. Enjoyed this.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you revisited that story. Thanks for posting it.

tumblewords said...

I probably wouldn't have laughed so hard if these 'happenings' didn't ring my own tune of reality!