“How about this one?” I point at a tree. It’s bigger than the rest, but still small enough that I think I can carry it into the house later on.
We’re standing in our warmest winter clothes, bundled up with scarves and mittens and small spots of red blossoming on our noses. We’re surrounded by rows and rows of identical pines, all casting towering shadows from the glow of the street lamps. Behind them lies a mostly clear black sky decorated with flurries of snowflakes, which speckle the fur trim of her hood with white and make my scarf look shimmery in the dark.
“Hmmm….” she muses, brushing back hair the wind has pushed onto her face.
A hope, ridiculously encouraging, starts to rise up in me. Could this tree be the one? I turn my head for a brief second at the path we just walked, and see the defined prints we dug in the snow with the bottoms of our boots fade away with the falling snow. The air seems to be buzzing with excitement, like the trees are just waiting to be taken home, and are watching us twist our beanies into knots trying to decide which one to pick. I, for one, could have been in and out of here in five minutes flat; it’s no use trying to compare trees if they all serve the same purpose equally well in the end.
But no, she wants to get the perfect tree, which is why we’ve been here for three hours.
She thinks for a long moment, scrunching up her nose in deep concentration. She seems to be giving it a lot of thought, but I’m a little wary of her expression – she’s made it for every tree we’ve looked at today. “…Nope!”
“Really? You don’t like this one, either? Just pick a tree, already!”
“Christmas is a special time of year, and the Christmas tree is what tops it off. The centrepiece, the star of the show! It has to be an amazing tree or the whole thing will be ruined!”
“Uh-huh.” I nod skeptically, glancing over at her eager face practically shining in the dark, thinking to myself that if she doesn’t choose a tree within the next five minutes, I’m just going to grab one and leave without her.
She grabs my wrist, dragging me along yet further, seemingly looking for something she’s been waiting for for a long, long time.
We walk in silence, and I blow little puffs of white breath as she pulls me along by my jacket sleeve, fueled by a never-ending Christmas spirit.
And after what seems like eons, I feel her let go as she lets out a slow, awed breath.
“This one. This is the one. Look, look, Joseph, this is the tree I want!”
It’s tiny, a wimpy little runt of a tree that’s more of a shrub than an actual pine, but I can see how happy she is with it. Her whole face lights up and I suddenly feel very warm inside. So… sure. We can do with a minuscule tree this year. I help her take down its number and call someone to help me take it to the truck; if she thinks this is the one, it must be it.
The snow keeps falling from behind the taillights of the truck as we drive back home.