This piece of mine appeared on the op/ed page of the New York Times on Christmas Day, 2015, with the title, “An Evergreen Tradition”:
by Jennifer Finney Boylan, Contributing Op-ed Writer
Belgrade Lakes, Me. — WE turned down the dirt road, the same one we’d been traveling for more than 25 years now. At the top of the hill was a battered sign welcoming us to Ladd Tree Farm.
The road led through the woods, across a small stream, through a meadow, and at last emptied out in the field. And there before us was the old familiar tableau: the balsam firs standing in long columns, a dusting of snow on the ground.
My wife, Deedie, and I got out of the car and looked around. The air smelled like smoke. The farmer, standing by a bonfire, waved at us. Just beyond him, a young family walked into the trees.
We used to be that young family. The first time Deedie and I came here, back in 1991, it was just the two of us and the dog, Alex, an odoriferous Gordon setter who gave up the ghost the following spring. A few years went by and then, there we were: driving to the tree farm with our young sons locked into child seats in the back of a minivan. In 1999, when the boys were 5 and 3, we pulled them through the farm on a small wooden sled. Our breath came out in clouds.
Five minutes later, those boys were almost six feet tall. One of them had a beard. They cut the tree down with a handsaw and then tied it to the top of the car as Deedie and I stood around the bonfire, a little stunned. “Come on, let’s get out of here,” they called to us. “We gotta go!”
Last year, Deedie and I went down to the tree farm without them, as they took their finals. They’re college students now, taking courses with names like “The Anthropology of Death” and “Electricity and Magnetism.” It was the first time we’d been to the farm, just the two of us, in over 20 years. We parked the car and stood there among the trees. The same old farmer was standing by the same old bonfire. “Good to see ya folks,” he said. Then…. (for the rest of the essay please click here.)