a magical, merry christmas

It’s a most magical time of the year. Our first Christmas in our new house. Our first tree in our house together. Our first magical, wonderful, sparkly tree. And I found the perfect place to get our tree. The web site promised hay rides and free cider, candy canes and cocoa. Hike through the magical woods and chop own own. Trees displayed in water. We weren’t sure what was up with the trees displayed in water part but the rest of it seemed the perfect blend of holiday spirit and cheer.

We set out like a Christmas carol in a wintry fairy land. Outside the snow was falling, sleigh bells were jingling, chestnuts were popping. It was just lovely weather for a sleigh ride together. Wonderful things we’ll remember all through our lives!

Except that by 5pm in Seattle, it’s black as midnight and in place of sparkling snow, we had rain pouring down in sheets and our sleigh was a Dodge Ram. But other than that, exactly like Courier and Ives. Exactly.

OK, and instead of sleigh bells, it was more like,

“What’s the address?”

“I don’t know. It just said that once we get to this road, it’s about a mile down. It’s a big white barn.”

“I can’t see anything. Do you see a barn?”

In the pitch black night and the pouring rain, driving down a dark and lonely road with no street lights, “a big white barn about a mile down” was not as helpful as it had seemed when I originally read it on the web site.

But we merrily drove along, full of Christmas spirit, surrounded by the joyous sounds of carols, eagerily anticipating our magical tree. And by “carols”, I mean Led Zeppelin on the classic rock station, but it was similarly joyous.

We thought we saw it. We saw a big sign that said “free cider”, but no sign of trees. Or lights. Or people. We kept going. It was a beautiful sight, we were happy tonight, driving down the dark road, trying to see through the windshield as the rain showered down on us.

As we turned a corner, we saw colored lights lining the road. And orange cones along a driveway. Orange cones almost always mean this is the place. We saw a banner that read “fresh Christmas trees!” This had to be it. We had found our holiday cheer. Our tree of wonderment. Our Christmas moment.

We got out of the truck and walked down the festive, fantastical lane. Although it seemed remarkably like a scary, dark driveway. And we didn’t see any trees. Someone was driving away as we walked up. He pulled over and asked us if we needed help. We told him we were there for the trees. He motioned to a dark house. Told us to ask for Ruben. Tentatively, we edged our way towards Ruben’s house. Filled with holiday spirit. Or possibly fear and dread. We walked past the garage as the sounds of an angry dog frantically barking and snarling filled our ears. Cujo-style jingle bells. When no vicious attack dog came rushing out to greet us, we carried on, towards the cheery, welcome door, which was cleverly disguised as a dark, silent pit of foreboding.

And then I saw the cat, glaring at us, unmoving. I suddenly had this strong sense of deja vu. Not that I had been here before, but that I had seen this exact scene many times. And every time I wondered, as I munched my popcorn, what the hell those people were thinking, when they so obviously were going to be hacked to death by the psycho killer who lured his victims with the “fresh tree” sign.

We turned around and briskly walked back to the truck. Visions of sugar plums, or possibly our own viscious deaths, danced in our heads.

We drove back the way we came and thought we’d give it one last try. One last attempt at a magical winter night. With hay rides and cocoa. And candy canes. We pulled into the parking lot that promised free cider. It was apparently a (closed) apple farm. We turned around. An forged ahead for our Christmas miracle. We pulled into the driveway of the only white(ish) building with a parking lot. Sure enough, we saw trees. No people though. And nearly no lights. And not a hayride in sight. We slowly got out of the truck, ready for jolly elves or psycho killers. We squinted as a man appeared from the darkness. Holding a chain saw.

He told us that the cut your own tree section was closed, but we could have a cut tree if we wanted. Squishy mud is a little like magical snow when your vision is completely obscured by tumultuous rain. I sang a little carol in my head. Or maybe said a little prayer that the nice man with the chain saw was in a good mood.

We found a tree with a $96 price tag, and sure enough, it was sitting in a little tray of water. Which I’m sure gave it the edge it needed on top of the huge flood around it. Our chain saw friend said we could have it for $35, so we didn’t mention the lack of hay rides, cocoa, candy canes, etc. He put it on a shaker and chain sawed the lower branches and we were on our way.

And then we realized that the best kind of magical, merry Christmas is the kind when you don’t get viciously murdered by a psycho killer in the darkness of the 5pm night.

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