Saturday, November 27, 2004
Saturday Evening Post
Today, we went out to get a small Christmas tree for the kids to decorate. We drove down the road a few miles where there is this tree farm that we have been going to for a bit. The man who owns it, is a relative of a man that I used to work for many years ago. The ex-boss in question is Mark Haage, who incidentally passed away quite some time ago. He and his wife were smoking fiends and it is was no surprise to hear of their individual passing in so much that it did not happen sooner. We drive over the hills of Upstate NY and through the stark, leafless forest. There is still some snow clinging to fallen trees and patches of leaves. There are old homes cobbled together in small groups with adjoining compounds of sheds that look like stacks of weather beaten cardboard boxes. We veer up a steep driveway that is barely apparent from the road. It is muddy and rutted from the late November rain that has been pounding the region lately. We come upon a clearing after our caravan bursts out of the forest primeval. There is a rustic home to the North and a garage/barn to the south where a tractor and wheeled sledge is parked. The old Akita is wandering about the parking area. The dog, Sasha, has been here for years and is familiar with the nuances of children. Once we disembark from the Family Tank, Jacob and Alexis immediately charge the poor old canine who just looks on in jaded indifference. I pull the kids away and show the grizzled outdoor dog my palm, "Sniff, Sniff, Hmmm, ok, friend, not foe." Content, Sasha walks off and we proceed to the barn. We all tumble inside and greet the two young girls at the cash register and the snack-table. Alexis and Jacob shed their coats and begin preparations for their TOTAL DESTRUCTION FRENZY as they try to grab every decoration off the display tree. I manage to extract Alexis from the decorations awaiting oblivion and seat her on an old rocking horse much like the one she got for Christmas last year. Jacob is raiding the cookies from the snack table much to the amusement of the dark-haired woman watching over it. The owner walks in and in a thick Nordic accent, briefly speaks with Hero Dad about what kind of tree we are looking for and what size. He tells us that he knows exactly in his many fields of trees where we could probably find exactly what we are looking for. We re-swaddle the kids and load them into the sledge. The Tractor sputters and then rumbles to life. Its and old orange Komatsu that looks the world like it has seen a century of use. We slowly creep across the soggy ground, bumping and jostling each other as every one snaps photos of the kids giggling and shrieking in delight from the ride. Their cheeks are rosey red from the cold, sharp wind. I look behind at the trail to see water welling up into the tracks left behind the wheels. The vegetation is thick and keeps the soil in place so that only the clear water makes its way through. No muddy slop or rotten vegetation. The tractor suddenly lurches to a halt as we reach a small stand of neatly groomed trees. They look like white spruce. Some are no bigger than the kids and some that tower over the adults. The kids waddle about in their winter dress, following grandpa with the saw in hand. After a little debate, we settle on a tree that is a hair under 6 feet. Alexis and Jacob look on as Gramps brings the saw to bear against the base of the trunk. With a few powerful strokes, the tree neatly crumples to the ground next to Jacob. His eyes light up as the realization of what this is all about comes to him. The owner turns the tractor around as Gramps hauls the tree onto the Sledge and we all clamber back onto the hey bales. Back at the barn, money and niceties are exchanged as the children raid the snack counter. I mention to the Mrs to leave some cash in the tip jar before we leave. As the Wife and I are performing our best non-verbal communication routine about the tip and how much we should allow the kids to eat, Alexis secretly starts feeding bits of cookie to a very grateful and pleased Sasha who has followed us in. Sasha has been here before and knows to gently take the proffered gifts ... food, not fingers. Everyone is happy today.
The trip home is quick. Gramps hauls the tree inside and puts up some lights while the kids are busy tormenting the hounds. When Jacob sees the twinkling lights, he is fixated. His eyes are open as far as they can be as he tries to take in the whole scene. He points to the lights and tries to name each color as they blink on and off. Alexis joins in and correctly classifies each light by color. While the kids are preoccupied with trying to pluck the lights from the tree, Grams starts to set up the cookies that she had baked previously with three bowls of frosting. Green, Red and Blue. When it is ready, we bring the easily distracted Toddlers of Tree Termination to the table and sit them down in their restraining seats. After a brief tutorial, they learn that the colorful pasty material that they are eagerly smearing on the shaped cookies is PURE SUGAR. Soon enough, not only are the cats, trains, turkeys and pumpkins frosted, but so are their hands, shirts faces and hair. Osmosis may have worked here for the direct assimilation of sugar into their bloodstream. A near perfect release of energy shortly followed. The wife and I are debating the potential of issuing a patent on our combined DNA as a potential clean, renewable, cheap energy source. I can see it now, bio-engineered dynamos. My envisioned legacy was soon corrupted by the inevitable sugar-crash as the prototype dynamos started to become cranky and had to be shut down ... nap time. I myself was exhausted and tried to coax Alexis to take a nap by letting her snuggle up to me in bed. She resisted. Fervently. I myself nodded off a few times only to wake up to the pain of little impacts on my skull, neck or trunk. At one point, she had removed her pants and socks so she could use them as some sort of primitive flail. Those little snaps hurt. Eventually, the Mrs came up and extricated my little vexation and put her in the crib where she fell asleep quietly. So did I.
Two hours later, the Mrs walks into the room where I was sleeping lightly and her mere presence wakes me. She indicates that it is time to get the kids up so we can go to the science center in Ithaca. Mmmm, ok. I shake off the heavy fog of slumber and attempt to get my wits about me. It is not working as planned. Ugh, I feel even more sluggish and groggy than ever. The center closes at 1730 so we need to get going soon. The kids wake a lot easier than I did. In no time, we are speeding off to the other side of town with a semi-lucent cripple at the wheel. Against all odds, we make it there safely without any wrong turns. This place is a reclaimed sewage treatment plant that now is basically a giant play-room for kids. It is a lot like the 'Please Touch' Museum in Philly, but smaller and a lot less ... commercial. The kids fixate on the water based displays and take a great deal of water with them as sopping wet sweat-shirts. Jacob eventually finds the wooden train and spends a the most time with it after we tear him away from the water-works. Alexis does her best to visit everything and nearly manages to complete her quest. It is hard to extract them, but we somehow manage to trick them into leaving when the announcement that the center is closing for the night gets broadcasted. We zip back home since I am now fully awake. Only took a few hours. Our last activity of the day is to put up the ornaments on the tree. This takes a great deal of time and is sufficiently enjoyed by all parties involved. Specifically Grams and Gramps. We bring over a small step ladder so that the kids can get some of the decorations beyond the first 3 feet of the bottom. It's been a long day. Time for bath and bed.