Extreme and generally prolonged pain; intense physical or mental suffering. The struggle preceding natural death.
The days leading up to Christmas
The holiday spirit is lost on me.
Who wants to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ this year?
Not this lady with the pending miscarriage.
Is my baby alive? Does she have a chance?
The relentless, haunting refrain. My hope is unraveling.
My husband and I go to a tree farm to select the perfect specimen for our home with tall ceilings.
“We need a big tree,” my husband says with such conviction and enthusiasm I can see the face of the little boy he once was. “A 9-footer this time. Minimum.”
One of the seasonal staff at the family-owned farm will cut down the tree for you, wrap it in twine and carry it to your car. All this after you take a wagon ride to the bottom of the valley and browse the fields where all of the most mature fir trees are rooted – Douglas, Fraser and Balsam.
It’s a magical place. Endlessly fertile with flora and generations of families bundled in their winter coats and wooly hats, oversized mittens hiding small, delicate hands. It’s cold and gray, but there isn’t much of a breeze.
We wander through the fields with careful footing to avoid stumps and divots. Many trees are already tagged, claimed weeks or months earlier. We’re late to the party but there’s still plenty choose from.
Suddenly someone breaks the silence and shouts, “Mom, are you OK?”
I turn around to see a grandmother on the ground, fallen victim to one of the stumps. Her family surrounds her, assessing hips, legs and ankles. She lies there motionless waiting for help, her son covering her with his jacket while her daughter-in-law runs for help.
“Watch out for the stumps,” I want to call out after her.
Next year at this time that family will talk about that time grandma fell at the tree farm. Next year at this time I imagine us here, three of us instead of two. Our family tradition evolving into something even more meaningful, a new generation to share it with.
I hope with all my might.
My husband and I choose our tree – a Fraser – and wait for the twining process. I go in the gift shop to browse pegboard walls covered in Christmas ornaments and help myself to a styrofoam cup of homemade cider. Baby’s First Christmas ornaments abound among the selection. So does the assortment of pet ornaments – we already have plenty commemorating our pair of beloved orange tiger cats.
I want one of the Baby’s Firsts, but I move on.
We bring the tree home and decorate it top to bottom.
The next day, the cats knock it to the ground.