It is a month until my birthday. Friday, I hopped over to the local grocery store to get a treat for my wife and me to savor as we relaxed to some West Wing episodes, and I walked past the newly arrived rows of pine trees awaiting purchase and subsequent decoration with glass globes, tinsel, and painted macaroni decorations. Yes, the trees of my youth featured the standards but also the school created salt dough and craft projects. Being the youngest, my contributions always looked crude next to my siblings’ offerings, but all were displayed.
My birthday is Christmas Eve, and many years it was spent driving to various tree lots trying to find an acceptable compromise between cost and aesthetics. When we all finally agreed upon a tree, it was strapped to the top of the station wagon and brought home. The decorating and the presents were certainly a highlight, but one small part of that ritual is inextricably bound to my birthday. My dad would take the tree down to the basement and saw off the base of the trunk in order to expose open pathways for the water to flow up to the needles. As the saw moved back and forth, sometimes with my assistance, an incredible scent filled the space. That sticky puck of fresh pine became a treasured prize that I coveted. It held that aroma for days, weeks.
Whenever I pass a tree display, I inhale the scent of birthdays past. I wonder what the unintended connections my children will build to their own celebrations.