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Family Tradition

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

Kiarra Loveless - December 12, 2023

Artwork by - Usko

Traditions are a funny thing. The routine of picking out a Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving had become just that—a routine. However, I have come to realize that even though this routine happens on the same day of each year, and the temperature is about the same, and the crowds are about the same, passing time and personal changes make for unique moments despite doing the same activities as a family each year. I noticed immediately that this year was a little different, because I was different. My parents didn't annoy me as much as they did in previous years, and though I would never let them know it, I appreciated their effort of upholding a tradition. 

Looking at the time on my phone, I realized that we were already fifteen minutes into the 35 minute drive to Dull's Christmas Tree Farm. Unlike past years, my younger sister, Cora, and I had yet to bicker. I dare say that I was actually excited for our time together on this day.  

The bright red flashing lights at the four-way stop meant it was time to turn right onto State Road 39 and he would most certainly be missing his turn into the Christmas tree farm. I perked up and paid close attention as my dad would no doubt have an excuse for missing the turn. Sure enough, he eloquently voiced his frustrations with a vocabulary littered with curse words that prompted my mother to scold him by reciting his full legal name. 

"Joshua Eugene Loveless!" she scolded. 

He simply replied, "Why do they put the damn sign after the turn?" 

How he didn’t know, after the eighth straight year, that the sign is after the turn was beyond me. I looked over to my sister and gave a quick smirk and she replied with a shoulder shrug as if to say, “He's not wrong.”

As he whipped the car around in what my driver’s ed course had now confirmed my suspicions as an illegal maneuver, I simply looked out the window and rolled my eyes because we all knew defending the placement of the sign would just keep him going on and on; it was a hill he was willing to die on apparently.   

The gravel parking lot was predictably busy. Much like the anticipation of a concert or sporting event or wedding or parade, everyone seemed to anticipate the memories that were waiting just around the corner. Families walked briskly toward the main entrance with the joyful gait of children at a playground going from slide to swing to seesaw. 

Earlier in the day, my father and I had discussed my mother's troubling obsession with kettle corn. It was his assertion that this tradition is cemented in the buying of kettle corn and not so much in picking out a perfect Christmas tree. His observation proved to be accurate as my mother walked at a blistering pace, just shy of a jog, directly to the kettle corn vendor. She ambitiously, or more accurately, excessively ordered two huge bags that could easily be described as trash bags. Admittedly, the aroma of the much-anticipated treat was satisfying and lured me into shoveling large handfuls into my mouth, just like my mother.  My little sister followed suit. My dad said nothing, shaking his head at our lack of ladylike manners. I did not care; he has his own idiosyncrasies to say the least. 

Our routine would not be altered, we would once again be opting for the Canaan fir tree. Short and stout evergreen needles are its trademark, and its strong pine scent is the only thing that could overtake the smell of kettle corn that was now being playfully thrown at me by my sister. 

It amazes me that every year my parents cannot remember the height of the tree that we need. My frugal mother always submits her initial low-ball bid of a six-foot tree. My ambitious dad rebuts with the "need" for an eight-and-a-half-foot monstrosity of a tree. My younger sister, using her sixth-grade level math skills, proudly offers mediation for my parents in the form of a seven-and-a-half-foot tree, which she claims is the average of the two extremes. I remained silent during this exchange, knowing that our ceiling is eight feet and we always get a seven-foot tree anyway. Sure enough, we came to a consensus on a robust seven-footer that everyone complimented while all I could think about was how cold my hands had become as we walked up and down the endless rows of overpriced trees. My dad knelt down to one knee and vigorously tried to saw through the tree trunk faster than he did in previous years. No official time has ever been kept, but he looks slower to me as each year passes. 

Eventually, the tree fell to the ground and my mother predictably said "That was so fast!" to feed his fragile middle aged ego. This was the first time that I wondered if she meant it and if he believed it. He didn’t say anything but had a prideful smile on his face as he tried to mask his heavy breathing. 

We took the tree back to the car, now eager to get home and decorate it. My sister and I sat in the backseat of the warm car as my parents secured the tree to the roof with twine. It was quiet inside, but our anticipation jingled like Santa’s reindeer as my sister and I shared a smile with one another. For the first time that I could remember, I was not in a hurry to get home; rather, I did not want the day to end. This tradition, encapsulated by the same events each year, suddenly felt brand new and even wondrous–wondrous as the two people sitting in front of me.

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