There were two different species of trees that made their way into my childhood home each Christmas. It's because my parents had different tastes in evergreens. My dad preferred the Colorado Blue Spruce with its asymmetrically spaced branches. My mom though the Blue Spruces looked like Charlie Brown trees. She favored the fuller bushiness of the Douglas Fir.
They compromised and set up an every other year swap. One year, it was Dad's choice. The next year it was Mom's.
Every year, we would drive up toward Darrington to a tree farm along the North Fork Stillaguamish River. We would trudge through the snow - hiking until we found the perfect tree according to the prescribed parental variant. Then we would take turns with the saw until the tree came down. It was paid for and strapped to the top of our car, then we would return home for chili and cornbread while the wet tree dried out on our back porch.
When Aaron graduated high school, my folks found a tree farm just outside Arlington - a shorter drive from home. By the time I was out of high school, they had settled on selecting a tree from a parking lot somewhere in town.
I grew up with real trees for Christmas. Looking back at the few holiday traditions my family practiced, the tree selection was my favorite. Even more than opening presents on Christmas Day.
It didn't snow much in Marysville. We were at sea level and in a snow shadow cast by the southern end of Whidbey Island. It would snow in Everett to the south. And in Arlington to the north. East of us, Lake Stevens and Granite Falls would get snow before anyone else. But in Marysville, snow was rare. And I love snow. The trek out to Darrington to get the tree was the one time of year that I knew for sure I would be able to play in the snow.
Now, in North Idaho, I get snow every winter. Some years more than others. (And this winter is starting to look like one of those other years.) Going to the tree farm to see snow isn't necessary; I can just look out my window. I haven't had a real tree in several years. Pine needles (or spruce or fir) are nature's glitter; one needle breeds and turns into hundreds that you're still vacuuming up months after the tree is gone. It is nice to not be cleaning up after real trees, but I do miss the smell.
This year, space is limited so there isn't a tree (real or fake) at my place. Well, not in the traditional sense. But my son provided one for me. It might just be the best tree I've ever had.
As for the smell? I have candles.