A crisp November day in Michigan. Overcast but no snow on the ground. Dad in the driver’s seat and me in the passenger seat. Pulling out of the driveway and turning onto the dirt road. Heading off on an adventure in the red Ford pickup truck. Just my dad and I.
We both enjoy trying new things and we especially enjoy doing them together. On this particular day we were headed to the Christmas tree farm to cut down a tree for our living room. It was the first time we had ever done this! I was 15 years old and for my entire childhood up to this point we had always had a fake tree. We had just moved into our new house and it had a perfect cathedral ceiling to accommodate a beautiful tree. Feeling adventurous we decided to step out of our fake tree comfort zone and go cut down a real one.
There is something energizing about wandering around a field, hunting for the perfectly shaped tree. Taking the time to size up the height, reviewing the placement of the branches and ensuring there were no large gaping spaces that you couldn’t live with. Another important aspect of tree hunting is to feel the needles. Are they soft or prickly? How much would it actually hurt to decorate this tree? If you like the shape and size can you deal with the texture of the needles? So many decisions. So much analysis. So many silly jokes and jesting. So much laughter. My dad and I.
We carried on this tradition for all of the years to follow, until I got married and moved out of the house.
As with any grand adventure that speaks life into your soul, as a mother I wanted to carry it on with my own daughters. We bundled up as a family and climbed into the truck and drove to the tree farm. We would wander around the trees evaluating the height first of all. I was the advocate for the largest tree that would fit in the room with the cathedral ceiling. Then if it fit the height requirement, how round was it? We wanted to find the biggest, roundest, fullest tree possible. Then we would work together as a family to cut it down and drag it to the nearest road where the wagon would pick us up again. So many opinions. So many decisions. So much laughter. My family and I.
A huge fissure happened in our family early last year and it left my daughters and I on our own. We find so much life and love in the process of hunting for the perfect tree that we decided to continue to carry on the tradition. My dad wanted to join us and be a part of the grand adventure. We all bundled up and loaded into the truck and headed to the tree farm. Dad was driving. Us girls were in the passenger seat. We laughed and joked along the way. Upon arriving my dad asked what exactly we were looking for. Our response: the biggest and widest tree we can find. Off we went, with my dad obliging every step of the way. After much discussion and analyzing, we found the biggest and best tree. My dad and I got on the ground and worked together to cut it down. I clearly remember the huffing and puffing due to exertion. I recall the wet and dirty knees and hands. I can still see dad laying on the ground under the tree while pushing and pulling the saw back and forth. I can still feel my cheeks hurting from the laughter.
I can still feel the love of the experience just like it was yesterday. My dad and I. Just like old times.
Now we approach another holiday season. We need another tree to fill the space of the tall cathedral ceiling. This year is different though. My dad passed away last month, suddenly and unexpectedly. With him died his laughter and jokes and all the love he poured into my life. What did not die is his love for grand adventure. It lives on in me. His energy and vitality for all that brings joy to the world was a gift he passed on to me. So this year, I will carry on the tradition of cutting down the Christmas tree amidst love and laughter. I will do it to honor my dad. I will continue to set the example for my daughters that family is important. Creating traditions and memories are what we will carry with us for a lifetime. Love and laughter will solidify all of the life giving experiences that we share.
Kenda Haines finds joy in spending time with friends, encouraging those around her, singing worship music and being filled with beautiful words. She loves being a mama to two beautiful young ladies and resides in Lowell, MI. She enjoys making time in her life to laugh, share stories and go on grand adventures.