o christmas tree | personal.

I've never had a fake Christmas tree in my entire life. Really, I didn't even know it was possible until around 5th grade when our neighbor, Linda, said something to her husband about "getting it out of the attic" in front of me. I asked why the heck they were keeping a tree in the attic and she laughed and told me that it was fake and they just bring it down every year. No, Linda. YOU are fake. Pfffft.

I don't mean that. She was a nice lady but her house smelled weird.

Now depending on how long we've procrastinated, our annual tree harvest has ranged from a parking-lot purchase from the Boy Scouts to spending hours at a tree farm two hours from home in search of the most perfect Christmas specimen. One year we just put up a Festivus Pole in the living room. This is the second married Christmas for us and the first married Christmas I have not been with child and let me just say that neither one of us wanted a repeat of last year. And, of course, by that I mean Justin insisting all the ornaments be in matching colors and me, sitting on the couch with arms folded over my pregnant belly, sobbing that all my sentimental, mismatched ornaments will go to waste. He tried suggesting that my ornaments go on a smaller "special" tree down the hall.

No, Justin, you can go live down the hall.

So this year we packed up the baby-who-is-having-Christmas-outside-of-my-body-this-year and headed to South Mountain Plantation, a Mom n' Pop tree farm south of Boonsboro where you park in a gravel pit, grab a saw and a wagon, and start the prowl for a tree. Now, this might sound like a light-hearted and easy winter outing, but actually, it's very complex. You see, you can't have a tree with gaps or holes or rotten, saggy branches. It has to have a slender top for the star but not so skinny that it leans over under the weight of it. It has to be full but not to the point where it swallows up the room. Rubenesque, I'd say, is what you're looking for. It also helps to have a husband who is a mix of Christopher Columbus and Captain Morgan survey the land.

Here's the thing about South Mountain - the good ones are all the way in the back. I know this because I pushed the stroller once and let her just rattle on down the hill unattended while I waved and yelled, "Pick a good one, baby!" And you're rewarded for your walking efforts - the greenest, fullest, most luscious trees are back there. And it's all good until you realize you have walked two miles downhill and now you must walk back up while pushing a stroller and dragging a tree. I'm out of shape.

Now here's the thing about our house - we have insanely high ceilings. Like, A-frame, tall as the roof. Tree height is of no consequence in our household. So we went big. Went really big. We went with....The Griswald.

Stay tuned for Part II of this epic saga - there's glitter, party fouls, a dog who drinks tree water (but forgets the consequences of sap), and a baby in footed pajamas. Don't miss it.

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