A Christmas Tree in Vermont

When I was in third grade, my family moved to Springfield, Vermont. I was too young (as yet) to live on my own, so despite the fact that I would miss my friends I decided I better go with them. Ha, ha!  We were there for about a year, covering all of the seasons. My favorite was Christmastime. We got a lot of snow in Vermont, and the sledding was unbelievable. We leased a house at the foot of a mountain. There was a wide gate at the back of the yard which opened to a trail up the mountain. Dad would open the gate, and my brother and I would sled ride down the hill and into the back yard. We’d be outside for hours, seemingly immune to the cold. Mom would wave from the kitchen window.

Dad decided it would be nice to hike up the side of the mountain and pick out a Christmas tree and cut it down. Off we headed, up the hill, dad carrying a tree saw. It took some time to find an appropriate tree. Perfect size, perfect shape. The tree he found was a whopper. I was only a third-grader, so it looked huge to me. Dad cut the tree down, and we dragged it back down the side of the mountain and into the back yard. We traipsed inside and threw our coats on the floor of the mud room, kicked off our boots, and headed to the kitchen where mom had hot chocolate waiting on the stove. You know, the good stuff made with milk and Hershey’s syrup.

I picked up an anthology of poems at the library today titled Commonwealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania. We are blessed in Pennsylvania with a number of wordsmiths, poets, novelists, essayists, dramatists, biographers, children’s authors and short story writers. The collection is edited by Marjorie Maddox of Williamsport and Jerry Wemple of Bloomsburg. One poem caught my eye and reminded me of the day we cut down the Christmas tree in Vermont. I wanted to share that poem with you now. It’s by Len Roberts.

Climbing the Three Hills in Search of the Perfect Christmas Tree

Just seven nights from
the darkest night of the year, my son
and I climb
the three hills behind
the white
house, his flashlight
leaping
from hemlock to fir,
to white
pine and blue spruce
and back
again, Up up higher
he runs,
shadow among larger
shadows
in the below-zero,
constellated
half-mooned sky, his
voice
so distant at times
I think
it is the wind, a rustle
of tall
grass, the squeak of my
boots
on new snow, his silence
making
me shout, Where are you?,
his floating
back, Why are you so slow?,
a good
question I asked myself to
the beat
of my forty-eight-year-old
heart,
so many answers rushing up
that
I have to stop and command
them back,
snow devils whirling
before
me, behind me, on all
sides,
names that gleam and
black
out like ancient specks
of moon-
light, that old track
I step
onto like an escalator
rising
to the ridge where the
best
trees grow and I know
I will find my son.

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