Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Dec. 26, 2008

Holiday adventures with Art - part 22

This holiday is my 22nd with husband Art. I knew when I married him that he could be a boisterous, exuberant, bull-in-a-china-shop kind of guy. I appreciate these characteristics - most of the time - because they complement my quieter, more careful nature. But sometimes . . .

Our annual Christmas tree procurement is always an adventure, but this year topped all the rest. I'd be perfectly content with a normal-sized tree, but not Art. He likes those that brush our ceiling and reach from wall to wall. One year we had to take the deck doors off in order to shove the tree into the house. Think "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."

Art's grandfather sold Christmas trees and his Dad hauled the mail so both families were extremely busy during the Christmas season. That meant the Christmas tree went up on Christmas Eve. My family aimed for sometime during the first week of December. Art and I have compromised and usually get our tree around Dec. 15. But time got away from us this year and we didn't set out to get our tree until last Saturday. At 14 degrees with a strong north wind, crunching through snow to look at trees was not high on my list of favorite things to do. But Art let me sit in the truck while he made a first pass through the trees at the tree farm to find suitable candidates.

He reported that he saw only four that met his criteria. He pointed them out, but the office at the tree farm didn't open until noon, so we passed the time by going to lunch with daughters Mariya and Katie and Mariya's friend Lacey.

We returned and the girls made their selection. I stayed in the truck, popping out briefly to get pictures of Art and the girls with their tree. Art told the guys working at the farm where he wanted them to cut it, they tossed it into the pickup and off we went, the girls following in Mariya's car.

Art backed the truck into our driveway, and he and Mariya moved the tree into the garage so it could thaw it out there rather than inside the house.

Then Art and I took off since we had to do some shopping and errands.

At least we tried to take off. But we couldn't get the truck up the driveway! That's often a problem in winter, with the driveway being on the north side and sloping down toward the house. To make it worse, the truck is a rear-wheel drive and has little traction on slick roads.

But Art, the engineer, loves a challenge. So he backed the truck into the yard and took a "running start" at the driveway. We got part way up. He backed up further and took another shot at it. Still no luck.

Then it turned crazy. He turned the truck around, drove into the yard and then around the back of the house, slipping and sliding the whole way.

"What's he doing?" I thought, too surprised to voice my question.

He explained anyway. His plan was to go around the house to use the more level front-lawn approach. But he forgot about the incline of the lawn on the house's east side. Before long, we were at the edge of the wooded hill, overlooking the highway below.

Luckily - for us, not them - the girls hadn't left yet. They had not witnessed any of this and were just getting ready to go when Art beeped the truck horn. I jumped out, yelling that we were stuck.

They scrambled to the truck and Art started barking out directions.

"Get into the truck," he instructed us. "I need all the weight I can get in the back."

I told the girls to duck down as there were several tree branches we'd have to avoid. We all scrunched down into the bed of the truck, protecting our faces with our arms.

"Why did you guys drive into the back yard?" Katie asked.

"Don't ask me!" I responded, muttering under my breath. "Ask your Dad."

Art made a couple more attempts, but was unsuccessful.

He told Mariya to drive so he could push. He instructed her to "rock" the truck as best she could - to go forward until she felt it slide, to let it go back some and then to rock it forward again.

Soon we were on a high point in the yard. Then Art took over. With the four of us as ballast, he drove down the incline, careened past the septic tank cover, slid around the ash tree and zipped past the southwest edge of the house, heading for the driveway. We slipped and slid some more, but we made it to the top! We four girls squealed the whole way and hollered and high-fived when we reached the level of the road.

Art said driving into the yard wasn't the smartest decision he's ever made, although he knew he'd have more traction in the yard than on the glazed driveway. I just shook my head.

But the girls found it intensely amusing. Katie said they giggled all the way into town. She told Lacey it was just one more Vaughan-family adventure to remember.

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