When I was growing up my family would venture into the cold to pick the biggest tree we could fit in the house. My siblings and I would open the cedar trunk and unwrap the crinkled paper that kept our ornaments safe. Mom would start a fire, her favorite winter ritual, while we decorated the tree. The scent of crackling wood and fresh pine needles was spectacularly potent, the unmistakable marking of Christmas in the Arends’ household. The following year, during the spring or summer, I would crack open the cedar trunk to sneak a whiff of that Christmas smell it persevered so well.
The tree is going up tonight, and while the ritual will never be as magical as the one I experienced as a child, the memory remains crisp in my mind. One whiff of pine needles and crackling wood, and I’m 8 again.