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Other than our first married Christmas where we recycled the tree from Orting High School’s assembly and decorated it in our apartment with homemade construction-paper reindeer and wreaths.

And the year after that. Where we wheeled into a gas station in Bonney Lake and left with a noble just big enough for our coffee table and $48.86 less in our wallets after tax.

And maybe a couple winters where we tried Christmas tree farms.

Other than those years, our Christmas trees have come from my in-laws driveway. Little Douglas Firs that nobody planted. And nobody seems to need. Soft-tipped trees that curtsy with their branches and beckon, “pick me. Pick ME!”

And we always pick one. In the dark. With headlights shooting shadows into the volunteer stand. We wander mere moments until we’ve got a winner. “Looks good to me,” we all say. And then three of us book it inside to Papa’s fireplace to hover with our hands out. And one of us pulls out a wimpy hand saw and does the honors.

It might take four minutes. From shopping to sawing. But in two more hours, strangled with lights, nothing will bring more joy than Steve, this year’s sweet tree.

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