Every year before Christmas time my family goes to Kluck’s Nursery, where we spend half a day looking for the perfect evergreen. My father, my mother, my brother, and, in later years, our dog Tucker, file out of the dirty white van and onto the frozen, snow-covered soil of the nursery. Sometimes it’s warm enough that there is no snow on the ground and we barely need jackets, but the most memorable years are the picturesque winter years.
On the way into the field of bristling green trees my father grabs one of the pre-supplied saws while my brother and I grab the cart for the tree. All four of us wheel into the miniature community that springs up once every year. In one corner are the mobile wooden houses that supply drinks and sweet treats around a blazing fire. Elsewhere we see other families returning victorious with gigantic trees of their own to proudly display. I look hopefully at the summit-less pile of hay bales off to the side swarming with children and I know that I will be there soon enough.
Suddenly we are walking through the forest of evergreens, laughing and talking about the end of the year. As we move down the path we begin to gauge the appearance of the trees, not caring too much for the ones on the side of the worn path. To this day we have never found a tree within the first hour of going to Kluck’s.
Finally we break into the sprawling branch-filled areas. Stray branches whip frost and snow in my face as my boots trudge through the white, powdery ground. Next to me is my brother, who is searching just as frantically as I am for the family tree. So far I have been the one to choose our tree every single year and my brother has always been looking for that one exemption to break my streak. Naturally, I’m not going to let him.
After hours of searching lackadaisically, finding dozens of trees only to give up and continue looking, and tireless examinations, we find the perfect tree. It swells out around the sides and the very top of it reaches high, but not too high. There are barely any pinecones among the branches and the green prickly thorns are long and plentiful. My parents nod their affirmation and my father pulls out the axe. Silently I punch my brother in the shoulder for stealing my tree idea.
At this point I always hold the tree as my dad cuts away underneath; in a few years I’ll be taking his place. He cuts away with a methodical rhythm and as the tree vibrates I can feel the sticky sap collecting on my gloves.
With a thud the tree comes away from its stump and crashes onto our green grated cart with a sigh. My father and I both wipe our hands on our pants and take a few deep breaths of accomplishment. On our way back to the van, my little brother sits on the back end with his own triumphant look streaked across his face.