1) What is your most favorite Christmas memory?
It would have to be our searches for Christmas trees when I was younger. I grew up in northern New Mexico at the foothills of the Rockies. Every year we would go down to the BLM office and buy our Christmas tree permit for $5.00. They'd give us a tag and a little map showing which of the management areas were open that year.
Christmas tree morning was an early start, usually up while it was still dark. Hot chocolate and coffee carefully poured piping hot into thermos'. Lunches packed--ham sandwiches on homemade rough bread, home grown carrot sticks and apples from the cellar, and home made fruit cake or divinity fudge. We'd gather the bow saw, some nylon rope and hit the road--some years in the family station wagon, some years in one of the old farm pickups.
It was usually very cold out, rarely would it get above freezing during the day. We'd travel deep onto public lands, up towards the mountains until we hit the yearly designated area. Almost always there was snow on the ground, and there were always fresh animal signs. We'd find a safe place to pull off the road, and then go tromping through the forest looking for the perfect tree.
I remember most the silence. The absolute blanket of stillness that lay over the landscape. Many people haven't ever heard absolute silence in the great wide spaces of the outdoors. The sounds of our foot falls on the snow were deafening. If you stopped, the absolute loudest sound would be the pounding of the blood in your ears... Usually we'd scare up a deer or two, countless jack rabbits and cotton tails. One year a bear, another family of raccoons.
The perfect tree was elusive. Although cedar trees tended to be fuller and often grew in that perfect Christmas tree shape, we favored the pinon trees. One whiff of the delicious pungent scent of a wild pinon tree, and you'd quickly agree I think. In 'captivity' with plenty of water pinons grow quickly, and they do smell great. But in the wild the trees are stressed from year to year--often not enough rain--and they grow much more slowly. The scent of these trees, ahh... Sweet and tangy enough to make your eyes water... The perfect tree has a single straight trunk--most in the wild are either double trunked or crooked. The perfect tree is not butted up against other bushes or trees or it will have a huge dent in the foliage. The perfect tree has a single peak on it, so that the Christmas star will have an obvious home. The perfect tree has full branches with plenty of needles. The perfect tree may, or may not have blooms or pinon nuts on it. The perfect tree harbors no small animals!
Once the perfect tree was found, it was a scramble to get it cut as low to the ground as possible while dodging the needles. Then gently up onto the luggage rack or in the back of the pickup to be tied down and tagged.
Maybe the excuse for the trip was the tree. But the reason for the trip was the family togetherness. We had a real tree every year that I remember until my second or third Christmas in college when I got home too late to go get the tree. My parents use a fake tree now, as do we. I guess that's more fashionable--I mean who wants to be caught cutting down a tree in these green days.
But I miss the family outing. I miss the trip. I miss the snow. I miss the smell. I miss the debates over which tree was more perfect. I miss the single minded purpose of a whole day spent as a family tromping around the outdoors.
2) Favorite Christmas movie?
3) What is your Christmas wish this year?
That our family be ok through everything we have faced and have yet to face...