I think I was in middle school when my father decided it would be a great business venture for his four daughters to start a christmas tree farm. I wouldn't call the venture exactly a failure (especially if you're reading, Dad), but it certainly had some challenges (and mostly taught me that child-led business ventures are the best way to go!). Namely the challenge was that the place he planted the hundreds of trees was on our grandparents farm, a two and a half hour drive away. And then the tiny detail of the fact that the my sisters and I wanted nothing to do with it really. But nevertheless, we begrudgingly managed to make a family pruning weekend happen twice a year and somehow kept those trees just on the side (barely) of acceptable for sale. It wasn't without some family fights, if I remember correctly, and it elicited eye rolling from each of my sisters and I whenever it was mentioned. But you know, in the end we all wound up grateful to Dad for his crazy idea. Because he had timed it so that the trees would be ready for harvesting and for sale during the years we'd be in college. Meaning, that each of the four years I was in school (and the same with my sisters), I'd get a check in the mail mid-December with my share of the sales. It wasn't a lot, but gosh, remember those years? Those little checks were everything. If only for gas money! Thanks, Dad. Sorry for the eye-rolling.
Later, he went into partnership with a neighbor at our family land DownEast, and for years and years, he'd bring each of us home a tree for our families, alongside the truckload he brought down to sell from his front yard. Not that he didn't have another job (or three)...but because there's nothing he loved more than working in the woods and this was one more excuse to do so.
That partner and friend passed away a few years ago, a heart attack deep in the woods no less (the only way he would have wanted to go, bless him), and it's been a while since we had a 'family' tree. For a couple of years, we went into the woods here on our land and found a natural one, though always a bit of a Charlie Brown, I loved those the best. The kids advocate pretty hard for a "real tree that we buy" which makes me laugh and also cry uncle. And so this weekend, the whole seven of us piled into a car together (something that's rare these days with a driver in the house), after which there was fighting in the car, and singing Christmas songs and laughing too. And then once we arrived, everyone argued about which tree we should cut, followed by the two older boys giving piggy back rides through the woods to their little siblings, and a tree finally was agreed upon, and I may have hid a little bit of a tear for love of them, and us in the complicated crazy that is family, and simple tradition that carries on from year to year and generation to generation. Ever changing though it may all be.