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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Great Christmas Tree Adventure Gone Awry

A good friend asked me, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, if I was interested in getting a Christmas tree that Saturday. It certainly seemed a bit early to be getting into the Christmas spirit, but my husband encouraged me to set up the two-family outing. We both agreed that we wanted to cut our own tree, not buy the precut kind you can find at any corner store and every Home Depot in America. The men wanted to wield their saws and conquer the tree, as their ancestors had done before them. The rest of us wanted to traipse through the fields, educating the children about how trees grow and how each tree wants to realize its dream of being the chosen tree of a family, who will decorate it and help it reach its full potential. Overall, it was to be a poetic adventure, culminating in the tree to define this year's Christmas spirit.

Step 1 was to find the perfect place to cut a tree. Our local paper was so kind as to outline cut-your-own locations within driving distance of Charlotte in the Friday paper. Certainly, that was an omen like no other! The first place listed advertised its merits: farm animals, bagging service, and a zipline. Nothing says Christmas quite like a zipline, I mentioned to my friend. She mused that perhaps it was a way to assist customers in finding the perfect tree. A trip to Boone, North Carolina, was mentioned. It certainly is known for its trees and would be picturesque, perfect for holiday card photos. Alas, two hours each way does not a holiday spirit inspire, considering bathroom breaks for the little ones and cries of, "Are we there yet?" being hurled from the backseat.

I turned to my local mommies forum for suggestions and found what I was looking for: within one hour, cut your own trees, and some entertainment for the kids. It even promised the rolling hills for which our partner family had hoped.

Here's where the broken promises start. Gastonia is not the Blue Ridge Parkway. The drive down was less than picturesque, but we were hopeful as we pulled off the main road and towards the farm, teeming with trees, big and small. The parking lot had quite a few cars for the Saturday morning, and we were cheerfully greeted when we headed toward the main section of the farm.

Broken promise No. 2 became apparent at this point. We saw several dozen very beautiful North Carolina Fraser firs, which were cut and in stands. It was discovered that we could, in fact, cut our own tree from any of the red cedars or Charlie Brown white pines in the fields we had seen on our way into the farm. Without going into detail about the different kinds of trees one might choose to hold the star in their home during December, red cedars are not Christmas trees. In fact, in North Carolina, 90 percent of all trees grown for harvest during the Christmas season are Fraser firs. The state grows more Christmas trees than any other state, save Oregon, which amounts to more than 7.5 million annually. That’s a lot of Fraser firs. However, there were no cut-your-own Frasers at this farm: Apparently Fraser Firs only grow at higher elevations. Through my diligent research, I failed to confirm this, and instead assumed it as a given.

Each family chose a lovely precut tree, and we were happy with our spoils. On to the next phase of the outing and broken promise No. 3: the hayride. When we arrived, the tractor was pulling a wagon full of happy tree shoppers. The kids were excited, and we all agreed to ride after the trees had been cut and in the truck. With that accomplished, we waited for the bell to ring, signifying it was time to load up for some hayride fun! Need I say the bell did not ring? We refused to be thwarted! My husband came to the rescue, and we loaded up in the back of his pickup truck and drove around the farmer's field. The kids never knew the difference. We were sated and ready for lunch.

Before we left for our adventure, I diligently searched for a lunch spot near the Christmas tree farm. The last thing I wanted was to be driving around the middle of the countryside and end up eating at a McDonald's because there was nothing else, and we were all starving. After looking at several reviews of eating spots on TripAdvisor, I chose a fish place. We had one pseudo-vegetarian with us, and this place promised "the best fish I have ever eaten" and "the place I always stop on my way down I-85!" It even seemed quaint in the way you order at the counter, then come up when your number is called. 
My husband immediately started in with the jokes of how "Kings Mountain was known for its fish, due to its large port," and how "catfish doesn't exactly count as seafood." I'll just say that everything was fried, and the only thing that held true from the reviews I read was that the portions were gigantic. My son’s popcorn shrimp basket was overflowing, and the seafood platter my husband ordered could have fed a small village — perhaps the same village that raised the guy who claimed this was the best fish he had ever eaten. Maybe that village only has a Captain D's?

Even though we didn't cut our own Christmas tree, and deep-fried whitefish made up our lunch, we all had a blast. My coondog got to run free around the fields, the kids got to climb hay bales and pet tiny goats, and my husband and I got to spend time with friends and family. And in the end, I suppose that was really the goal in the first place. When all the tree trimmings are on, and the star is placed on top, we will all have smiles on our faces, remembering the fun we had that first Saturday after Thanksgiving, getting our tree.


Post submitted by Katie from The Mommies Network's Content Team

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