Andrew Ilg

A Family Tradition

Every year for nearly the last two decades my family and I travel up the hill to get our Christmas tree bright and early the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday). When I say my “family”, I also mean my aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, and so on. We go to the same Christmas tree farm in Pollock Pines to quickly hunt for the best-looking, symmetrical tree there is to take home and put up in the living room.


We aren’t the only ones who do this there either; the farm we go to is always bustling with families, dogs and holiday cheer. After our families find the most picturesque Christmas tree, we rendezvous in the busy parking lot to secure our trees and tailgate with hot chocolate and candy canes. We’ll wrap it up after a few good stories and head out to lunch and then back to our respective homes.


This year, for the first time in forever, we did things differently.


We decided to mix it up and go later on in the afternoon to a different tree farm farther up the hill which supposedly had less expensive trees. Now, I was a bit apprehensive at first because it was a new place I knew nothing about and we were going later in the day. My first thought was “it’s going to be busy”, followed by “what happened to tradition?”. Every year we would always find the perfect tree in under twenty minutes, who knows how long it would take at this new place or if we would even find one we like. I kept an open mind about the change thinking maybe it won’t be as bad as I pictured and that a break from tradition might lead to something better.


When Friday arrived, it was raining fairly heavily and continued to do so throughout the entire day. As far back as I can remember, it had never rained that day to the point where we didn’t go get our tree. Sadly, we didn’t get our tree and decided to wait it out until the weather cleared up.


Come Sunday afternoon the skies were blue, the sun was out, and not a single drop of rain. We arrived to the new tree farm which was quite small and didn’t have much variety. After a half-hour of searching, we came up empty-handed as there was not a single tree that qualified to be placed in the living room. With no silver lining or silver tip in sight, we drove back to the one place we knew would have just what we were looking for.


At last, we were back at our traditional tree farm. It was late in the afternoon and we were just about the only ones there, which was remarkably unusual for such a popular destination this time of year. It was oddly quiet and warm but it allowed for a memorable time with family.


Twenty minutes. One perfect tree. Candy canes and hot chocolate.


There are few basic (but important) lessons to be learned here and I will leave you with them as we head into the weekend:

  1. There is value to tradition.
  2. The unknown is uneasy, but can be fruitful and offer new experiences.
  3. You get what you pay for.

 

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