We were not hunters, none of us. But once a year we trekked into the bush.
“Ready to go?” My Dad, the expedition leader.
I nod, excited. My sister, in her puffy snowsuit, is already wandering down the driveway with my Mom. My brother, 16 and too cool for everything, is not too cool for this. Yet. He pulls on his toque.
We are five figures on a frozen back road, the only sounds the soft zip-zop of our snow pants, the crunch of our boots. We always turn off at the same spot. Our spot.
Sometimes the snow is high and we’re sweating before we get too far, yanking neckwarmers up onto our heads and unzipping the bottoms of our coats. This year, though, we can still see the fuzzy tips of brown timothy poking through. We make easy progress. I walk with my Dad.
“I see one! It’s perfect!” My voice, barely audible.
“Too big.” My Dad, the ultimate arbiter.
“There!” I gasp. He sees. When he stops I know he’s considering it. He steps away from me and moves toward it, signalling to Mom. He catches hold of it and gives a vigorous shake, snow flying in all directions.
“Well, what do you think?”
We all agree it’s perfect. Dad motions for Mom to take hold and he pulls out his weapon of choice:
A small, well-worn wood saw. The perfect tool for this job.
Dad hunkers down into position. We all know what happens next. I hold my breath.
“OK. Here we go.”
With a flourish, Dad grabs an imaginary pull-cord and gives it a hard yank. The wood saw roars to life!
“REEEeenyeyeyeyeeeeNYEEEnenenennene!!” My Dad, the human chainsaw. We laugh. My brother rolls his eyes, but he’s still smiling.
Dad gets to work, his ‘chainsaw’ revving and sputtering, cutting away what we don’t need. In no time at all he’s scrambled to his feet and our prize catch falls into the snow with a whumph! We’ve done it!
It is a perfect Christmas tree.
It was always a Perfect Christmas Tree.
Then one year, I was the eye-rolling 16 year old. Too cool, almost. Then 18, too busy, too self-involved to bother. I stopped going hunting. Then I was 20, and too far away. I missed it. With each passing year I would think of The Hunt and feel my heart stir.
“Hey, ready to go?” My husband.
Shaken from my thoughts I see our son, in his puffy snowsuit, is already wandering down the driveway. His brother, six and sure of everything, pulls on his toque.
I nod, excited.
“Do you have it?”
From behind his back my husband pulls out the small, well-worn wood saw, gives the imaginary pull-cord a little tug.
“REEeenyenyenyenye!” The kids laugh. I laugh, too. Their Dad, the human chainsaw.
We are four figures on a frozen back road. We are not hunters, none of us, but once a year we trek into the bush. We hunt for the perfect Christmas tree.
It is always perfect.