While I like to think I remain young at heart, I do occasionally run across little reminders that betray my age to a time where the only roaming was likely done by living, breathing dinos and not your phone. Of course, I was born at the right time where we could see new technologies on the horizon but had less than 57 channels and most of the time, nothing on, meaning we often had to beat our feet and hit the streets to entertain ourselves.
So yeah – I’m a little older than I look – as evidenced by the little patch of grey working its way through my chin stubble AND the shocking amount of Channel 5’s Chronicle that I watch almost nightly.
That television news magazine, a staple in the Boston-area for several decades, is comfort food to me. I love this area – this region – the fully defined four seasons we New Englanders weather and embrace. I love the unique Main Streets and Back Roads that wind their way from sleepy hamlets ensconced in Downeast Maine to the modest peaks found at the White Mountains to the dune trails that run the length of the Cape’s National Seashore.
And each night, Chronicle always hones in on one of those must-see destinations, or the people who live there, or the things they do. Their folksy charm married to top-tier production values and crystal clear HD visuals makes for a nice way to unwind after a long workday.
When I see somewhere I’ve been, that just elevates it all to a whole new plane.
Which is where I found myself a few weeks ago, when they teased a 1/2 hour Mystery Main Streets with a couple random shots of the businesses and attractions they would be visiting over the next half-hour. The premise behind those episodes is to highlight a few key locales and have viewers text or tweet their guesses – while a scrolling ticker broadcasts the latest suggestions lobbed by the folks at home. By the end of the show, they let you know where they were at and if you’re like me and you like what you see – you make a mental note to date that destination.
This particular night they opened on a Christmas Tree farm, perched atop a rolling sea of hills, dotted with a handful of little red barns.
I grabbed the phone and dialed up Colin and Aria. Colin has taken to watching Chronicle from time to time as he’s fascinated with building architecture and food, of late, and they often showcase both. The second he answered, I told him – “Turn on Channel 5 (or whatever number in the seven-hundreds it rests on the cable directory). The place we chop down our Christmas Tree is on Chronicle.”
By the time he did, the segment was over BUT I comforted him that I had things covered. I hit the DVR record button, which flows back a 1/2 hour, and stored it to memory.
That was OUR place. Allen Hill Tree Farm in Brooklyn, CT. And the talking head was the same guy who chats me up every year as he bundles up my freshly cut Frasier Fir. Now I had something to talk to him about when I made my return trip this year – this time to grab two trees – one for them at the house and one for us at the apartment.
We started going there as a family about 4 years ago. Prior to that, we bought at local garden centers although one year, we chopped down a tree at a local guy’s mini-farm situated on his property. We had a moderate snow the night before, so trooping through that field, boot-high in a blinding white canvas – that just elevated the memory… while obscuring whatever lurked below our sight line.
When we got the tree home and set it up, I was slightly unnerved by the sheer number of ancient snake skins I found resting in the tree. Good ol’ rustic garland.
One year, one of Andi’s friends told her about the Allen Hill Tree Farm so we decided to head south. It’s actually not too far – about 20 minutes over the border into Connecticut. My M.O. has been to take a 1/2 day, meet up with Andi to spring the kids from school and get it chopped down before the sun beats its early retreat. Often times, we’re tying up the tree just as dusk descends and the post-work crowds come pouring into the gravel parking lot.
And since we’ve been scoring trees from Allen Hill, we’ve found the PERFECT trees. Just the right size. Just the right shape. And they barely lose a needle – from now through New Years. Some years, I swear I could just toss the thing in storage and bring it out the following year. Suffice to say, I’ve been a happy return customer and was thrilled to see Chronicle thought the same.
So – yesterday – we ripped the page from the playbook and followed tradition.
I’d say, once again, we’ve found a great tree. One that Colin, Aria and I went to town decorating wonderfully last night. We even made room at the top for my trusty Christmas Tree Polar Bear – a tradition atop my tree ever since I roomed with my buddies Joe and Sean in Mansfield in those fledgling post-college days.
Our first Christmas in that apartment, Joe and I walked down to the town green, in the falling snow, and purchased a tree from some Boy Scouts. We then walked back, carrying the tree in our mitts – spreading cheer and wishing on a celebratory beer. Passing one guy, probably my current age now – walking with his young son – we saw this guy’s eyes light up. “Hey – you guys look like a Rockwell painting.“, he exclaimed. “I wasn’t gonna’ get a tree today but you know what… I AM NOW!”
That’s Joe and I. We speak for the trees. Well, us and the Lorax.
Anyway – later that day, we realized we had nothing around the apartment to decorate the thing with unless we decided to ‘Snap Into’ that Industrial-Sized Box of Slim Jim’s we kept around for a rainy day or the apocalypse – so we hit the mall and procured an assortment of bulbs and baubles. Not able to find a star that wasn’t too gaudy, we were greeted with a deal at the register: Buy $50 worth of merchandise, get a free Polar Bear. We spent $100 and got two.
One went on the tree. The other in storage.
Until it came time to go our separate ways. Joe took one polar bear. I took the other. And to this very day, his rests atop his tree – mine perched over my tree.
And every year we both hear the same sing-song refrain.
“Why the Hell do you have a Polar Bear on your Christmas Tree?”
A question that can only be defeated by one answer. The only answer that ever really counts.
And that’s what I aim to do in my new digs for Colin and Aria. To keep some traditions alive.
…and make some brand new ones as well.