When our kids were little, we always took a whole afternoon to get the Christmas tree. We’d dress warm and spend hours tramping around a farmer's field, knocking the snow off branches of trees and arguing about whether or not the tree we’d picked was big enough before finally choosing one to cut down.
Last year, when we realized that the kids were really too old to get excited about choosing the Christmas tree, my husband and I went by ourselves to look for a tree. We found a local farmer who sets up a Christmas tree stand in a parking lot in the middle of a nearby village. He and his teenage sons were so cheerful and nice about helping us choose a tree that we agreed to go back to the same place this year.
“But still, it’s not as much fun without the kids,” I said to my husband last week. “I miss the kids being little.”
He looked up from his laptop. “I know a kid who would love to come with us.”
When we picked up Little Biker Boy Saturday evening, he was wearing new fingerless gloves. “Look!” he yelled. “I look like Boy in Black now!”
“Yep,” I said. “You look just like one of my sons.”
“They gave me new clothes at school,” he said. “And toys. And some wrestling magazines.”
I looked at him as he climbed into the car.
“It was my last day,” he said. “I hafta go to a new school on Monday.”
He’d never been to a Christmas tree stand before. The cut trees were leaning against wooden stands, rows and rows of them, with leftover trees piled in the snow banks. Strings of white lights looped above our heads.
“I’m taking a picture in my head,” Little Biker Boy announced. “I’ve got 31 pictures of you in my head.” He stood still for a minute, as if he was memorizing the scene.
That was the last time he stood still.
He ran up and down the rows, touching the trees and putting his face up to smell them. Every time we almost chose a tree, he’d change his mind and run over to look at a different tree. He picked up a cut branch lying in the snow, and swooshed it through the air as if it was a light saber. He barged into the little trailer, and then yelled to the farmer, “Is this where you live?”
He was fascinated by the baling machine. When a couple bought a tree, the farmer lifted the tree and pushed it through the machine, and the tree came out the other side all bound with twine. Little Biker Boy climbed up onto the back of the machine and would have dived into it headfirst if I hadn’t grabbed the back of his jacket.
The teenage boy who was helping us was endlessly patient. Every time Little Biker Boy would point to a tree, he’d pull it out and hold it up so we could see how tall it was, and how full. Then Little Biker Boy would say, “I see a better one over there,” and he’d point to the other end of the lot.
When I figured we’d all had enough, I said quietly to Little Biker Boy, “If we have enough time, we can get pizza and bring it home.”
Little Biker Boy pointed to the tree that my husband was looking at. “Okay, that one.”
Within minutes, we had the tree tied to the roof of the car. My own kids were home by the fire when we arrived. Boy in Black was working on his laptop, Beautiful Smart Wonderful Daughter was grading psychology exams, Shaggy Hair Boy was playing the piano, and With-a-Why was reading a book. “We have pizza!” Little Biker Boy announced. “And chicken wings! And I picked the tree! And I look just like Boy in Black now.”
My daughter smiled and gave him a hug. Boy in Black held up his own fingerless gloves. With-a-Why looked up and said, “I’m hungry.” Shaggy Hair Boy began playing “O Tannenbaum.”
We put the tree in the corner of the room, and I filled the stand with water. Little Biker Boy got down on the floor to sneak behind the tree, and then kept crawling around and around, like a wind-up toy.