December is almost here and it’s time to start thinking about Christmas trees. In our neck of the woods, many people I know choose to cut down their own Norway spruce or red pine. They usually drive to New Hampshire or the Berkshires, hike to a pristine place, and breathe in a lot of fresh air. Sounds so romantic. But in our family, we opt for the already cut variety at Gerard’s, a farm stand/boutique, on the busy Route 2 in Lincoln, MA. Believe me, it’s not because we don’t love nature or because we love car exhaust. It’s not even because it’s close.
It’s because there’s something magical about Gerard’s and a visit to his shop at Christmas time has become a family tradition. Every December, my husband and I and our two kids, ages 12 and 10, pile into our station wagon and drive 20 minutes west. We zoom past Gerard’s on the left and make a u-turn about a mile up the road. We pull into the parking lot, giddy with anticipation.
My husband, Tim, scouts for a Frazier fir while Sammy, Anna B., and I race past the cedar garlands and refrigerator filled with mouth-watering homemade fruit pies into the little store. Inside we find the impractical and often pricey Christmas decorations that we have come to treasure. After all, isn’t that what Christmas is all about? A little indulgence? There are red currant scented candles, sparkly rain deer wearing faux-mink collars, oversized antique etched glass ornaments. Gerard, originally from Belgium, and his wife, Amy, have had the shop for 18 years. Antique and new finery, much of it from Europe, fills their shelves inside. Local products including decorated wreaths and apple cider can be found outside. We come for both.
Sammy and Anna B get to pick one decoration each—ornament or accessory—every year. (And we all get one of Gerard’s homemade chocolate turtles, conveniently located next to his cash register, to eat on the drive home.) The first time we did this, seven years ago, the conspicuous and brightly-colored mini trees that Anna B and Sammy chose flummoxed me. After all, Tim and I had been celebrating Christmas together for 15 years and we had our aesthetic all figured out—nothing too frou-frou and little white lights on the tree.
Anna B and Sammy’s choices derailed my vision. How could glitz and sparkle fit with our minimalist approach? But I held my tongue and added two new doodads to the Noel decor in our living room. At first I resented their showiness and thought they tarnished the scene. But after a little while, I came to love them and what they represented. Christmas wasn’t just about my aesthetics, after all. It was about building a tradition together as a family. And color and sparkle was part of that package.
So this year look for us at Gerard’s. Who knows what wild ornament we’ll be carting out this time. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will look great with our Christmas tree beautifully lit up with blinking, colorful lights.