In the early 1990s, Don and I were lucky enough to be living in an apartment housed in a grand and gracious Victorian home. The livingroom featured a marble fireplace, hardwood floors, and floor-to-ceiling windows. When December rolled around, the room simply begged for a live Christmas tree. We went to a farm not far from where we were living to tag the tree, and a tradition was born. Every year since we have traipsed to this same farm, often with Don’s parents, to choose the perfect tree.
But this year we tried something new.
In the fall we had occasion to go to Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown with Oscar’s preschool. Our goal was to choose a pumpkin for a Halloween display. But the net result was that we had fallen in love with this place. The offerings–including fresh produce, pastries, sauces, and soups–were, of course, a draw, but there was something about the atmosphere that guaranteed our return visit. When it was time to tag the Christmas tree, we toyed with the idea of going back to the same farm we always had–the first one we went to as a couple, the first farm our children ever saw–our usual, traditional place.
But we didn’t.
We left yesterday afternoon after a quick rainstorm left us with temperatures slightly over 50 degrees and headed to Sweet Berry Farm. We first had a delicious lunch in the farmstand’s cafe–Don and I feasting on a sublime homemade pumpkin curry soup and the boys finding their favorite fare without event–a slice of fresh pizza for Edgar and a cheese sandwich for Oscar. We sat in a sunpatch and talked about whether or not the Grinch might be out in the field stealing Christmas trees.
We then got into the car and drove out to the field and found our tree–all in under 15 minutes.
The entire experience was so successful that it is exceedingly tempting to declare this a new tradition. There is certainly a place for traditions in our lives–they envelop us in a comfortable familiarity and help us to call up memories while connecting us to past, present, and future generations. But traditions can also prevent us from trying something new. And while we endeavor to live in the present, it might be worth remembering that whether an experience happens here or there is not nearly as important as sharing the experience with those we love.
We may return to Sweet Berry Farm for the next twenty years–have a delcious lunch and then find the perfect tree in record time–or we may not. But it is our hope that no matter where we wind up we’ll be together; and that is ultimately what matters. It’s what we’ll remember.