I can officially play the music and prepare to ride that whirlwind roller coaster that will find us at Dec. 25 before we know it.
Over the last 10 years, our little family has developed a lot of traditions we have to squeeze in, made all the more important as we may not be here next year.
Of course, there’s the kid’s Christmas concert. A Christmas party with friends that is not to be missed. A Christkindlmarkt that will have me out shivering in the cold most of a weekend. Hopefully, we’ll be able to sneak out to Harpers Ferry to see the luminaries and live nativity and check in on just how much the little angels have grown.
Though the event will have passed by the time this hits print, the Illumination at Antietam National Battlefield is a sight to see: winding your way through 23,000 candles - one for each soldier killed, wounded or missing at the Battle of Antietam.
At home, I’ll begin my long, protracted, many-years battle with our outdoor lights. The outdoor snowflakes are temperamental, and only work properly if put together in the right order, which, of course, I never remember. A smarter person would mark them in some fashion, but in my defense, it is usually pretty doggone cold when the time comes to take them down.
But, by far, our grandest tradition is our trip to get the tree.
My girl is a Christmas fanatic, and stories of her spending hours in the frozen tundra of the North Country looking for the perfect tree, dragging the kid as a toddler around in a sled, are legendary.
In our far more temperate clime, we’ve fared better. The last few years, we’ve stumbled onto a gem — a Christmas tree and alpaca farm.
I’m not much of a farm guy, but even I am bewitched by the rolling hills. Fields of trees and a herd of alpaca in a beautiful location such as that seems pretty idyllic.
But it isn’t rest and relaxation when we go, we are there with a purpose: to fell our majestic evergreen.
We each have our part to play: I’m the muscle (we’ll use that term loosely), and apparently, the comic relief. The kid, who finds her favorite in about five minutes, becomes the official “stander,” fending off those who might want to steal our contender while her mom embraces her inner Clark Griswold to find us the fastest, tallest tree she can find.
Thank goodness for 10-foot ceilings.
Once the tree has been selected, everyone gets entertained as I grunt my way through chopping it down and dragging it to the prep area.
After some hot chocolate and a little quality time with the alpaca comes the hair-raising hour drive home, hoping our tie down holds and our tree stays on the roof where it belongs.
When we do finally wrestle the tree in the door, it never looks as fat or as tall as we thought, but once adorned with all our decorations, it is enough.
It’s easy to get caught up in the race to get everything done in time for the big day, but in the long run, as the kid gets ready to head off to college, the memories I will cherish will be the ones we shared together.
So I’m going to stop and smell the cocoa.