Dr. Chapman, one of the attendings that Jeremiah works with, invited us to join he and his wife's family for Thanksgiving dinner. I was thankful to have a plan--somewhere to be for the big day, but I was apprehensive about spending a holiday with people we had never met.
We found, as I am discovering over and over in our experience out here (and our road trip out), that when you allow life to just happen it can be surprisingly beautiful. We spent Thanksgiving here:
A farm in North Bend Washington, blanketed in snow. The Damazo/Chapman family welcomed us in a way that is still blowing my mind. They were fascinating--full of life experiences of which we were allowed glimpses--bronze sculpting, building a state-of-the-art free dental clinic in Kenya, fox hunting in England, mosaic art, running a horse farm, cooking gourmet meals,...my mind was in a blur the whole evening trying to take it all in. I imagined we would be dropping in as interlopers in another family's whirlwind, and instead, I found myself being served (by some very sweet children) a candle-lit meal with things like truffle-cream sauce over my turkey. Where were all the casseroles?! :) Were my children going to break the crystal? And how in the world did we get admitted to this grand evening? Dr. Chapman served us a variety of his favorite wines while his sweet daughters took my little chicken wings upstairs to play after the meal.
It was intimate and elegant and fascinating, and while I missed our family and my Mom like crazy, I felt blessed to be able to experience a new kind of Thanksgiving.
Ready for a gear switch? On Saturday after Thanksgiving we had another kind of all new experience--cutting down our own Christmas tree. Here in Washington, for a mere ten dollars, you can purchase a permit to troop out into the wilderness and chop down your very own tree. Is anybody else picturing Clark Griswold?
As we pulled off the exit ramp that Jeremiah had chosen for our tree extravaganza, I looked to the right and left and felt terror grip my heart. Sheer panic. I love my husband, and I trust him to take care of us, but when we are in a car and there is snow all over the roads, I do NOT trust him to keep us from getting stuck in it. I see this glint in his eye from all those Saturdays spent "mudding" in high school, and I know there is some part of him that just wants to slide all over the place. I began rationing out the picnic lunch I'd packed in my mind, wondering how long the four of us could survive on it after we were stuck in the wilderness in the snow.
Needless to say, we had a few scary moments (we had to help dig another family's car out the snow, and did a little spinning out), but we managed to make it out without having to ration our picnic--although we didn't enjoy it quite as I had anticipated...
Fifty degrees in Seattle, but thirty minutes outside the city was beyond my scope of planning.
We hiked a magnificent wooded trail, occasionally being sprinkled with snow, and in awe of the quiet peacefulness of a snow-covered wood. I know I will never forget that walk. Miraculously, I never felt cold but I saw streams tumbling over ice capped boulders
and a forest of evergreen trees with boughs drooping from the weight of their white mantles.
As we walked and waited for the glorious moment when Our tree would reveal its face, something changed in our spirits. We discovered we'd made a rookie mistake in buying the 12-foot and under permit. Who needs a tree taller than that, right? However, when you're talking about undergrowth in a forest, anything under 12 feet is, ummm, scanty at best. If we had paid $10 more, we could have felled a 20-foot tree and used the plump top half as our Christmas tree, but there were strict rules (and steep fines) for cutting outside the boundaries of your permit. We went from looking for the perfect tree...to looking for a tree that would support lights.
We sent Jeremiah down into a sun-filled gully, in hopes that some of that undergrowth might have grown some branches on more than one side.
I wish you could have heard how hard we've laughed over this dilemma. I am normally OCD crazy woman about the most perfect, most full Christmas tree on the lot...and here I was just praying for a tree with more than two branches.
I stayed back on the trail with the girls while he disappeared into waist-deep snow. And y'all, twenty minutes after his disappearance he emerged with this smile and this tree, saying he felt like he'd found the tree for Rockefeller Center when he saw this one shining in the distance....
I congratulated him on his magnanimous find and smiled to myself at what we now considered beautiful. By this time, Mary Aplin had managed to pack snow down INTO her boots and was crying in fear of why her Daddy had been gone so long in the woods. After unpacking the snow, I removed her wet, freezing socks and put my gloves on her feet instead. With empty fingers crammed into her boots and a chest cold that seemed to be developing before our eyes, there was no way little girl was going to make the half-mile trek back out of the woods. So, we went back to our old methods :)
I don't know how he did that the whole way out of the woods, but he only let me drag the tree for a very short reprieve before taking it back.
I think there was some kind of man-in-the-woods-need-to-bring-home-tree-for-my-women thing going on.
We didn't bring any of our Christmas decorations, so after a $30 trip to Fred Meyer (Seattle's version of Wal-Mart) we were drinking hot chocolate around our Christmas tree.
I feel staunchly protective of this tree's ugliness... Maybe because I feel like she's doing her best to shine for us, or maybe because she was born out of such a magical day. Either way, she may be ugly, but she's all ours.