It was Christmas Break during my freshman year in college and after a mere 3 months on my own, I was feeling quite confident and independent and adult, so when my mom suggested that my older brother and I drive out to the tree farm in northeastern Ohio to cut down an evergreen for the holiday - the farm where we had for years been harvesting our family tree - I assured everyone that I knew exactly where the farm was located; no need for written directions or anything so superfluous as a map. It was, I told them, impossible for us to get lost.
At last we came to the divided highway that would take us past the tree farm. I knew that it would be on our left - but beyond that - I really wasn't so sure. I expected that a big sign would point us in the right direction, but as the time and miles slipped away and the sky turned a deeper gray tinged with silver, I realized that I had no idea where the tree farm was. When we drove past the Welcome to Pennsylvania sign, my heart sank and I turned to my brother with shame and embarrassment and admitted that I had gotten us lost.
Instead of being upset with me or teasing me, he simply turned the van around and headed back in the other direction. Evening was almost upon us and we knew our parents would wonder what had taken us so long. How could we return empty-handed? As we drove, we kept our eyes open for another place to stop and get a tree but suddenly the road seemed depressingly empty. Dark purple and gray appeared along the edges of the sky and just as we were about to give up hope, we spotted a small sign for "you cut" live Christmas trees. My brother turned onto the gravel road and then onto a thin driveway that took us to the front of an old farm house. A teenager came out, pulling on his coat. He led us out into the snow past rows of fledgling pine trees and farther into a field where the older trees grew tall and sturdy in neat rows.
We selected a tree and my brother got to work, lying down in the snow to get at the tree's trunk. The teenager stood with his hands deep in his pockets and watched. The wooshing sound of the saw was the only thing to be heard on that frigid early evening and after several minutes, the tree was free and we began to drag it back towards the van. My brother's coat was covered in snow on one side. We paid the young man and started back for home. I dreaded getting back and having to admit to my parents that I hadn't known where the original tree farm had been, despite my boasts.
But when we got home, my parents had not yet returned from work - my secret was safe for a while. My brother turned to me then and said, "We don't need to tell mom and dad." Relief and gratitude washed over me. I have no idea whether or not my brother finally did tell my parents, but nobody said anything to me about. As far as I knew, it remained our little Christmas secret.