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In Praise of Christmas Tree Farms
By Sus Pareto
Yesterday I drove to Larsen’s Christmas Tree Farm, about two miles from my house. It was a balmy fall afternoon, and the road to the farm was lined with poplars and willows dappled in gold.
Up ahead, I saw the red and green sign pointing to a narrow driveway which led to a dell where a yellow clapboard house and outbuildings gathered. Just a normal, traditional Petaluma farm — except when Christmas tree season opens. Like an explosion, the quiet dell surrounded by acres of orderly pine trees becomes a bustling hub of people and cars. As if by magic, gossiping groups of pre-cut trees have popped up while a tree-bagging station, ticketing station, and cookies-and-hot chocolate stand wait nearby. The barn has become a Christmas wonderland of sparkling trees and lights and ornaments. In the background, Christmas music weaves through the fragrant scent of pine trees.
It’s the scent that gets me. So fresh and pure. Timeless. Like being in the middle of a mountain forest on a sunny day.
I stroll along soft dirt through the aisles of trees. Voices float and mingle with the sunlight in the needles. Kids play hide-and-seek, parents discuss the merits of one tree over the next. Dads stand by with measuring poles and saws. Couples with their first babies. Grandparents and dogs. It feels all so safe and glad, and serene. The excitement of Christmas — the feelings that start to swirl and take on energy during the holiday season — is still on the horizon. This day is simply about strolling on a sunny fall afternoon through pine trees destined for felling with people you love, or like.
I was not sorry to be alone. I enjoyed it. I paid my $95 (including shaking, bagging, trimming, and sales tax) and then watched my tree go through its handling: A quick shake on an old metal compressor to remove dry needles, then onto a rectangular table and into a funnel where it gets bagged in netting. A fresh cut to the trunk with a chain saw, and it’s ready for my car.
I can hardly wait to get it home.
No matter what I say about not caring about Christmas “this” year, about not wanting to make a big deal out of it, don’t believe me: I’m a liar. I can’t help myself. No matter how cranky I can be, every Christmas I temporarily forget any resentments I have, about how I don’t want to spend money, or don’t want to bother with decorations because nobody helps me put them away. When I hear the first Christmas songs, when I see the first decorations, when leaves start to fall and days get short and nights beckon for a fire, my resolve weakens.
And when the Christmas tree lots appear, it fails. Every time.
Trees beckon from parking lots, stores, and farms, and I’m powerless. ‘Oh screw it,’ I say to myself, ‘This year I want a really big, beautiful tree!’ And off I go to the Christmas tree farm. The floodgates open, my heart expands with warmth and joy in anticipation of another Christmas.
Forget the thoughts of putting everything away in January, ignore thoughts of paying my credit card in February, now is the season to draw together, to love our lives, our homes, our friends, and even the worst family member. Let the house fill with the scent of pine and fake pine cones, cookies baking, hot roasted vegetables and meat. Let the pitter-patter of lights everywhere gladden our hearts. It’s Christmas.
Sus Pareto writes and lives in western Petaluma, California with her dogs, cat and husband.