By Sarah Colson
“That’s all that’s left of the house that Daddy grew up in,” my step-dad, Shane Adams, said pointing to a brick-high perimeter of what used to be his father’s house. His father, or Poppy, as he is affectionately called, grew up in Cynthiana, Ky. Shane’s sentiment was just one of many shared with the handsome and intelligent Jonathan and I during our trip to Kentucky for our one-year wedding anniversary. We made the almost five hour trip for the annual “Christmas Tree Hunt,” a tradition that’s been taking place in the Adams family for nearly 50 years.
To me, the word “hunt” is inevitably associated with masculinity. It usually implies some scent-free soap, beef jerky, guns and, to my dismay, the loss of life. And while this “Christmas Tree Hunt” did involve a brief time of shooting guns and an ax that took the life of one slightly-too-round evergreen, for the most part this “hunt” looked a lot more like a large family sitting around a campfire, eating an untold amount of Christmas-time goodies.
Feeling energized by (or perhaps guilty about) the extra calories consumed, Shane, his two brothers, his two sisters, their kids and I decided to take a trek up the mountain on a two-mile roundtrip on just a slice of the 84 acres of land on the Adams’ farm. As we hiked uphill, hands and shins taking the blow from tangled thorn trees, cool December air shocked our once cozy noses and the Adams siblings told story after story of growing up.
“Remember when Shawn fell in the frozen pond? If our neighbor hadn’t have been there she would’ve been a goner.” “This is where Daddy cut his finger off. He was just three and Granny saw a snake and ran away and left him holding a hatchet. He killed the snake. But he also lost a finger.” “They didn’t have any running water. They used to go to town once every week or so if they were lucky.” “This is the shed great-granddaddy spent a whole winter in. Can you imagine a whole winter up here by yourself in the cold?” “Tony, was this the tree you fell out of that one time?”
Suddenly I realized that while it seems like Jonathan and I have added dozens of memories during our first year of marriage, what we share is like a tiny snowflake in a Kentucky blizzard compared to the Adams family. If we’re lucky, one day my new husband and I will have enough memories to last us another 50 years of “Christmas Tree Hunts.”
So while of course we have some memories to share, perhaps we are better suited to share instead the fresh experience of only being married one year. Whether you’ve been married a week or a lifetime, may you find some sort of wisdom, or at least a few laughs, from these 12 lessons (one for each month) that Jonathan and I have learned in our short year together:
• A marriage is not between two people; it’s between two families.
• Cooking meals saves money. Ordering pizza saves marriages.
• Learn how to fight…and then learn how to forgive.
• If you’re going to get married while you’re still both in school, that’s fine. Just know your spouse may not be as interested in hearing all of the gory details of what goes on in anatomy lab as you think she might be, just like you may not be interested in how to conjugate the Hebrew verb “to go.”
• Praying together is important, as is talking about why you might not feel like praying all the time.
• You are messier than you think you are, guilty of stealing the covers, more selfish than you ever knew and more loved than you can ever be worthy of.
• Appreciate your first, tiny apartment. It only takes two hours to clean.
• Snuggling is cheaper than cranking up the heat at night.
• Homemade cookies can be used for almost anything—apologies, Christmas gifts, “sorry you had a bad day” gifts, aroma therapy, proof for your mother that you do know how to cook—and they only cost about 6.5 cents each to make.
• Don’t forget to make new traditions.
• Nothing says “I love you” like clean dishes.
• You always have more to learn.
If our first “Christmas Tree Hunt” taught us anything, it’s that building a family takes a lot of time. And sometimes, it means making the cold trek up a mountain just to remember how things used to be. Like what’s left of Poppy’s old home, evidence of what is faithfully and patiently built will remain generations later. This season, make sure to take some time to sit with your family, that which you’ve created and that which has always been by your side, and keep warm with the memories you all share. Then when you’re done, go out and make some more.