The past few years the holiday season had been tough on my family and I, not the least reason being the passing of my parents and Father-in-Law within a ten month period of time. I haven’t been in the mood to celebrate anything, though I forced myself to attend gatherings and pretend to be happy to be there for the sakes of my children and grandsons. This year I have determined to turn over a new leaf ….. to begin to enjoy the traditions and rituals of the season with a newfound enthusiasm ….. Hoping to make precious and treasured memories for my grandsons to pull out and recall when I have gone from this life …. the kind I have of past Christmases with my parents and sisters. To that end, today I gathered three of my beloved offspring’s offspring to go to the woods. I intend to decorate, with their help and input, a totally natural Christmas tree … albeit it an artificial one. BAD idea. Very BAD idea.
I put in a request for my older son’s ( said son being the lovely vacuuming guy from Vicki’s blog) truck and his three sons and we set out with my youngest Sister Lana back to the woods located on the property I inherited from my Dad. These woods have been empty of cattle or any other animal (with the exception of the normal critters found in the wilds of north Alabama - deer, opossum, rabbits, coyotes & squirrels ………… oh and the occasional armadillo) for over ten years. I KNEW this having ventured there the other day with my son, but dumb me, I figured I could handle it the same as I used to when Vicki and I roamed the entire eighty acres running buck wild. I was wrong as it turned out.
The woods now are full of undergrowth and brambles and deadfall, leaves slick with the moisture of dew, frost and rain. Landmarks I once knew have long ago been obliterated due to the passage of time and Dad’s trusty tractor and chainsaw. We entered the woods from the hayfield …. Sounds easy huh? My grandsons were running like startled deer, clambering over the two dead trees blocking the path I had told them we were going to take. They scampered ahead, yelling at the top of their lungs, selecting huge rotten limbs to protect me from whatever mangy creature was lurking nearby to attack. I reached the two downed trees and thought O MY GOD! Those trees are feet off the ground and my legs are too short. Added to that, my knees don’t work very well, refusing to bend the way I want and locking up when they will. I sat down on the trees and thought okay Donna, now just swing your legs around to the other side and scoot your …… errrrr….. hiney off the trees, all the while screaming at the boys to wait for me. It nearly worked out the way I had planned ..except when I was set to scoot off., my behind was stuck between the two trees, my little short, legs waving in the air uselessly. I was yelling to my sister, hey give me a shove and get me out of here! All the while, the boys were gone from sight and sounding like a herd of Comanche on the warpath. The one thought going through my head was I am too old for this crap and if the boys get lost my son will kill me!
When I finally got down, I pushed through the dense brush, trying to look agile and athletic and I stumbled across fallen limbs, rocks and saw briars. It didn’t work. I looked like exactly what I was - a forty something short round crazy lady with bad knees. Not an awesome sight to behold. But, dammit, I was in charge of this expedition and I had to get back into control. I herded the boys, who had doubled back to see what was taking me so long, into some sort of order and we began foraging for out bounty. The problem was that the boys’ Dad had been telling them there was deer sign in the woods and they began examining every tree for scratch marks, crawling on their knees looking for prints and licking a finger and holding it up in the air to check the wind direction, because, as they told me, you have to stay downwind of a deer. I tried to explain that we weren’t hunting deer . .we had no guns and even if Bambi herself walked up, we’d pet her and let her go her merry way. They acted like I was crazy!
I thought ok, we’re moving location … on to the next section where, hopefully, their Dad HADN’T seen deer sign and just maybe we’d accomplish what we set out to do. I sent Lana after the truck ( no way was I crossing that logjam we came in over again) and we waded the waist high saw briars to exit the woods. Sitting on the tailgate with legs dangling off the back is enjoyable when you’re a kid, but as an adult it is an exercise in clenched butt cheeks and a death grip on the tailgate edge to a chorus of SLOW DOWN OR LET ME DRIVE! After a death-defying trek over branches and brambles and tree stumps, the truck finally stooped. My behind was tired of being jostled and bounced, my legs were sore from scratches and banging off the sides of terraces and holes when I forgot to keep them raised. I had had enough! I was walking back no matter what.
The section of woods I chose is criss-crossed with gullies that had been there since before we moved here in 1970. I was thinking to myself a nice slow amble would be great, the quiet and peace of the woods on a warm fall afternoon, enjoying the changing leaves and colorful berries found there. Except I didn’t reckon with the grandsons wanting to go along. I had hoped they would stay with the truck and Lana, gathering a few gumballs and pine cones to use as decorations for the tree. How could I refuse to wait when they yelled at me? After all, this entire excursion was to teach them that Christmas was about love, not expensive ornaments and gifts. As I waited for them to catch up to me, I kept thinking, okay Donna, you can keep them in order this time. Threaten them with death or worse, act crippled and helpless so they will offer aid and stay beside you for a change. Yeah right!
They ran by me like gazelles, laughter and taunts floating back to me as they sprinted ahead. I yelled and told then to be careful, that running in woods you weren’t familiar with was dangerous. Did they listen? Nooooo … instead the next thing they knew, the ground they were flying over as they turned their heads back to hurl insults at me disappeared and they ended up in the bottom of a gully higher than their heads. I stood at the top of the gully and laughed at them as they lay there stunned, damp and dirty. Me, being savvy to slick leaves and deep trenches, politely turned and walked out of the woods and across the field where I had better footing, leaving them to climb out on their own! HA!
I am exhausted, my knee hurts and I have bruises in places I had forgotten I even had. My legs are covered with scratches and dried blood . . . . I dread taking a shower cause I know they’re going to sting and burn. I have learned a valuable lesson today - next time I want to go to the woods, I am going alone. I already knew how out of shape I was - but GEEZE - I don’t need anyone to heckle me. And all I managed to gather were a few scraggly pine cones and three gumballs for the tree…..