A Fa-la-la-love Story

By Anna Mitchael

My favorite love stories are the ones that almost don't happen.

A woman almost gets on a subway train that doesn’t hold her future husband. A little boy almost walks by the dog adoption center without going in. A flyer advertising a Christmas tree farm almost gets thrown away with junk mail but then at the last minute gets read.

“Did you know there’s a Christmas tree farm not far from us?” I asked my husband.

“Hmm…” he said. And then started to edge toward the hallway. As though he were thinking about his answer when he suddenly remembered something important happening in another room. I had seen the move before, when I asked if he knew it was possible to build an entire outdoor deck in just one weekend.

In the case of the Christmas tree farm it was too late. By the end of that flyer I was hooked on the idea. My whole life I’d flipped through winter clothing catalogs that featured beautiful models frolicking in the snow, chopping down evergreens while wearing cozy parkas. All of them with perfect hairdos tucked into beanie hats.

I was curious about that life, the life where one doesn’t think twice about covering up hair she paid someone to fix for her. The life where you somehow look cool while you frolic.

When we arrived at the tree farm (for those keeping score, we never did build that outdoor deck) I found the Texas tree farm experience involved less frolicking and more tractor riding. Instead of snow, there was mud. The tractor took us into the field of homegrown trees, and with saws and large measuring sticks we walked around, examining the trees no one had chosen yet. If these trees were related to towering evergreens, then it was in a second-cousin-by-marriage kind of way. Some were thin. Others crooked. I thought back to the entrance of the farm, where they kept a selection of imported trees that were full and robust — trees that looked picture-perfect.

I was about to suggest that we head back for one of those when I noticed a tree growing off to the side that looked close to the height we wanted. It leaned a little to the left, but while I studied it, I realized that was probably because the tree endured the same wind that just about drove me crazy every spring. And it was definitely thin. But wasn’t that probably because it grew up during the drought we had all just endured? Couldn’t ornaments fill the gaps? Wasn’t I wearing a beanie hat because I hadn’t washed my hair in a while? When I attempted to frolic after we climbed out of the tractor, hadn’t I flung mud all over the backside of my jeans?

“What about this one?” I asked my husband.

He took a long look at the tree. “You like it?” he asked.

I thought about all those holiday catalogs with their models who had walked off the set into a world that was far from perfect — but on its good days could be an absolutely wonderful mess. I could hear the tractor starting up in the distance, and I could feel the warm Texas sun on our backs.

“Actually,” I told him, “I think I love it.”

Anna Mitchael is the author of “Copygirl,” “Rooster Stories” and “Rattlesnake Stories.” Read more about her work at annamitchael.com.