When Lonny tells me he has to work the weekend after Thanksgiving my mind rushes fast. These sweet days hold tradition in our home. We bundle up on Friday and plod over gentle hills in pursuit of a tree. We tether it to our Suburban and sing Christmas songs on the way home. And Saturday is decorating day. We listen to Bing Crosby and Judy Garland. We make a stock pot of soup. We carry totes from the attic that hold twenty years of memories from Christmas past.
But how can we do this if Lonny isn't here?
He and I scan the fam cal and try to shimmy tradition into the jam-packed squares. Swim meets. Basketball. Another long-haul project for Lonny at work. There isn't a place to make it fit. We decide to wing it. Maybe something on the calendar will give.
But when we wake the next morning, after Lonny has left for work, Logan has a novel idea."I think," he says, "that we need to cut the tree today. We'll miss Dad but it's going to be the perfect day."
I look at my son. I can't deny that the sun is already pressing through the living room window.
"Cut the tree without Dad?" I ask.
He nods. "It's almost December. And it's going to be impossible to find another time."
So we gather the brothers. We gather mittens and hats. And I try to gather enthusiasm. To me it seems sad. I know that in the course of life this is just a gentle ripple. A minor disappointment. A tiny thing. I'm ashamed that it bothers me so much. Maybe because the years flow fast? Or there's no guarantee there won't be hard change? I don't know. But we do these things together. Without Lonny it doesn't seem right.
In a short time we're at the tree lot. We take a saw and the smaller boys run like wild over the hills. The trees are beautiful and the sun is on our shoulders.
"This one?" Gabriel shouts as he beams at a Fraser fir.
"No, that one over there. It's small and shaped like a tear," Sam says.
We trudge around for a bit, the five boys and me. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has a fave. Then we see the tree. It's tall and beautiful and we all agree fast. But for good measure we take a
vote. All six approve. I smile and nod. But I miss Lonny's vote, too.
"Now who's going to help cut?" Logan asks.
The three younger boys are on their bellies in no time flat. Grant agrees to hold the top.
And I step back and watch my sons. Logan claiming leadership. Grant lending support. Three younger guys bursting with joy. Logan crawls under the tree with saw. He offers it to Zay then his own big hands curl over the small ones. Back and forth. Back and forth. Logan takes time with each younger brother. When the tree comes free Grant catches the weight of it. Everyone cheers. It's a job well done.
The guys all want to help tote the tree back to the barn. They're victorious as we move over the hills again. I stay back a bit, wanting this picture, this day, to press into my heart. Zay's winter hat is an owl and as he skips the ear tufts bob up and down. Gabe and Sam, after a short while, decide they'd rather bolt around than carry the tree. And Logan and Grant haul this beauty, the biggest we've ever had, while the brothers run around them.
I still miss Lonny. But I know the rest of the weekend will be okay.
Tradition is treasure, but sometimes change brings beautiful things.
This day is precious, after all.
Lord, thank you for tradition. But thank you for new blessings, too. Open my eyes so that I may see...Amen.