It was our first Christmas in our own house, a 640-square-foot log cabin on an acre and a third. I loved saying that last part: An acre and a third. Imagine. Such land barons we were.
As was only apt, we decided we would get our tree from, yep, that forested wonderland that was our very own acre and a third. Off into the woods we trumped, Chan carrying his ax, me scouring the woods for the perfect plump evergreen. Which, of course, in Alaska you won’t find. All that sunshine in the summer shoots those babies straight up into the sky, never giving them time to fill out and turn into beauties. But I’d been in Alaska six years by then. My hopes were quite modest. I’d once talked Chan into falling a 20 or so foot tree for it’s perfect top, only to find, once on the ground, that the top was just as scraggly as the rest of it.
But this year, our tree was coming from our little kingdom and I could afford to be generous. It didn’t take long to find a tall, not-too-Charlie Brown-esque fir. Chan chopped away until it crashed onto the snow, then we drug it through the woods, clear across our acre and a third to the little cabin door, only to find there was no way in hell that tree was going to fit in our living room — even with our vaulted, exposed beam ceilings. (I liked saying that, too.) So there was more chopping and trimming and finally the Christmas tree from our very own acre and a third stood proudly in our living room, as humanly far as possible from the wood stove.
It was a Merry Christmas. We were proud homeowners, goofy newlyweds as full of hope as a young couple could be. Yes, Chan was unemployed and on his way to apprenticeship school and it would fall to me to make sure we managed to keep that little cabin in the woods, but we would manage. Somehow.
As it turned out, it was the first and only Christmas we would spend in the cabin. By fall the next year, we were living in a rowhouse in Pennsylvania, not enough money even for a tree. But we made do with a swag on the apartment door, and when someone told us about the great buys at the original Reading outlets in the old brick buildings just down the hill, we scraped together a few bucks and went shopping. I found a little rocking horse pony, a Santa bear trivet and a couple of ornaments for another year’s tree. And finally, it felt like Christmas. And as blue as we might have been, we were happy all the same because we knew it would get better.
And it did.