This was the first Thanksgiving I’ve ever spent away from my family. I was apprehensive as we approached this holiday, especially since it coincided with my Mom’s birthday. How would this be?

Dr. Chapman, one of the attendings that Jeremiah works with, invited us to join he and his wife’s family for Thanksgiving dinner. I was thankful to have a plan–somewhere to be for the big day, but I was apprehensive about spending a holiday with people we had never met.
We found, as I am discovering over and over in our experience out here (and our road trip out), that when you allow life to just happen it can be surprisingly beautiful. We spent Thanksgiving here:



A farm in North Bend Washington, blanketed in snow. The Damazo/Chapman family welcomed us in a way that is still blowing my mind. They were fascinating–full of life experiences of which we were allowed glimpses–bronze sculpting, building a state-of-the-art free dental clinic in Kenya, fox hunting in England, mosaic art, running a horse farm, cooking gourmet meals,…my mind was in a blur the whole evening trying to take it all in. I imagined we would be dropping in as interlopers in another family’s whirlwind, and instead, I found myself being served (by some very sweet children) a candle-lit meal with things like truffle-cream sauce over my turkey. Where were all the casseroles?! 🙂 Were my children going to break the crystal? And how in the world did we get admitted to this grand evening? Dr. Chapman served us a variety of his favorite wines while his sweet daughters took my little chicken wings upstairs to play after the meal.
T-dinner all

It was intimate and elegant and fascinating, and while I missed our family and my Mom like crazy, I felt blessed to be able to experience a new kind of Thanksgiving.
Ready for a gear switch? On Saturday after Thanksgiving we had another kind of all new experience–cutting down our own Christmas tree. Here in Washington, for a mere ten dollars, you can purchase a permit to troop out into the wilderness and chop down your very own tree. Is anybody else picturing Clark Griswold?
As we pulled off the exit ramp that Jeremiah had chosen for our tree extravaganza, I looked to the right and left and felt terror grip my heart. Sheer panic. I love my husband, and I trust him to take care of us, but when we are in a car and there is snow all over the roads, I do NOT trust him to keep us from getting stuck in it. I see this glint in his eye from all those Saturdays spent “mudding” in high school, and I know there is some part of him that just wants to slide all over the place. I began rationing out the picnic lunch I’d packed in my mind, wondering how long the four of us could survive on it after we were stuck in the wilderness in the snow.
Needless to say, we had a few scary moments (we had to help dig another family’s car out the snow, and did a little spinning out), but we managed to make it out without having to ration our picnic–although we didn’t enjoy it quite as I had anticipated…
Fifty degrees in Seattle, but thirty minutes outside the city was beyond my scope of planning.
We hiked a magnificent wooded trail, occasionally being sprinkled with snow, and in awe of the quiet peacefulness of a snow-covered wood. I know I will never forget that walk. Miraculously, I never felt cold but I saw streams tumbling over ice capped boulders
and a forest of evergreen trees with boughs drooping from the weight of their white mantles.
As we walked and waited for the glorious moment when Our tree would reveal its face, something changed in our spirits. We discovered we’d made a rookie mistake in buying the 12-foot and under permit. Who needs a tree taller than that, right? However, when you’re talking about undergrowth in a forest, anything under 12 feet is, ummm, scanty at best. If we had paid $10 more, we could have felled a 20-foot tree and used the plump top half as our Christmas tree, but there were strict rules (and steep fines) for cutting outside the boundaries of your permit. We went from looking for the perfect tree…to looking for a tree that would support lights.
We sent Jeremiah down into a sun-filled gully, in hopes that some of that undergrowth might have grown some branches on more than one side.


I wish you could have heard how hard we’ve laughed over this dilemma. I am normally OCD crazy woman about the most perfect, most full Christmas tree on the lot…and here I was just praying for a tree with more than two branches.
I stayed back on the trail with the girls while he disappeared into waist-deep snow. And y’all, twenty minutes after his disappearance he emerged with this smile and this tree, saying he felt like he’d found the tree for Rockefeller Center when he saw this one shining in the distance….

DSC_1643 - Version 2

I congratulated him on his magnanimous find and smiled to myself at what we now considered beautiful. By this time, Mary Aplin had managed to pack snow down INTO her boots and was crying in fear of why her Daddy had been gone so long in the woods. After unpacking the snow, I removed her wet, freezing socks and put my gloves on her feet instead. With empty fingers crammed into her boots and a chest cold that seemed to be developing before our eyes, there was no way little girl was going to make the half-mile trek back out of the woods. So, we went back to our old methods 🙂

I don’t know how he did that the whole way out of the woods, but he only let me drag the tree for a very short reprieve before taking it back.

I think there was some kind of man-in-the-woods-need-to-bring-home-tree-for-my-women thing going on.
We didn’t bring any of our Christmas decorations, so after a $30 trip to Fred Meyer (Seattle’s version of Wal-Mart) we were drinking hot chocolate around our Christmas tree.
I feel staunchly protective of this tree’s ugliness… Maybe because I feel like she’s doing her best to shine for us, or maybe because she was born out of such a magical day. Either way, she may be ugly, but she’s all ours.

35 Responses to “Some Things You Only Get to Do Once”

  1. Kellie says:

    Fabulous, just Fabulous – every single detail!!!! What beauty abounds out there!!!! WOW!!!! Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder!!!!! It think it's a WONDERFUL tree and perfect!!!!!

  2. Lauren says:

    Abby, I'm sorry, but I seriously laughed out loud at the last picture of the tree! It is beautiful…just different. And what a fun story to tell how you guys got it yourselves! We aren't having a tree at all this year because I left all our tree decorations in Bham and refuse to buy more.

  3. Anonymous says:

    That is the kind of tree one of my Aunts always had when I was a child…and I loved it…even coveted that tree. You see, we always had a cedar tree that we cut ourselves and it just never measured up to her tree in my eyes. Such wonderful memories you are making. When I read your posts I imagine your kiddo's reading all of this when they grow up…what a treasure. God's blessings to you and your family in this season of celebrating Christ's birth.

  4. Shannon says:

    oh my when you said you pulled off the road to find your tree, I immediately thought of Clark Griswold. Seeing Jeremiah's face with the tree cracked me up and although it is nothing compared to what you are used to yall dressed it up just perfectly! Merry Christmas and thank you for sharing. You have such a beautiful way of writting.

  5. Lacey says:

    Your pictures of the landscape (& cityscape)up there are amazing! And what a beautiful tree-I think it looks quite trendy =)

  6. Anonymous says:

    I found your blog awhile back while reading my sister in law's blog (Kathryn Morriss Pack). I just wanted to let you know that I love reading your family's stories about life in Seattle. I was fortunate enough to visit there once during one of two trips to Portland (visiting a boyfriend in college); that was a long time ago but both places have remained in my heart. You have a beautiful family and the love you have for each other always shines through in your blogs. Thanks for sharing with the rest of us, even those who do not personally know you! You are an inspiration to us all.

  7. Emily says:

    Oh Abby, I LOVE your tree! I always make a bee-line for that type of tree–I mean, anyone can have a full, traditional tree, but I want one with character! And I always feel sorry for them because they are the last ones on the lot. Yes, I'm aware of how ridiculous I sound. 🙂

  8. Brooke @ Blueprint Bliss says:

    I absolutely love it. Love it. How special. All of it.. the tree, Thanksgiving lunch, the family photo. Love.

  9. Sarah says:

    LOVE this post and your charlie brown xmas tree! =)

  10. Anonymous says:

    WOW! I LOVE the tree, actually! Good job! I also loved every detail leading up to getting the tree to where it is, which I think is why it is so special! Thanks for letting us share your trips, and for sharing the tough parts of life too – I learn so much from your family! Have a blessed and merry CHRISTmas!

  11. Kendall Boggs says:

    I love, love, LOVE this blog!!!! And your pics are wonderful!

  12. Lindsey says:

    so hilarious. but an awesome Christmas story for your family for years to come! glad you guys were able to have a great thanksgiving too.

  13. Kat says:

    Most beautiful tree I have ever seen!

  14. Tara says:

    This may be my favorite post yet of Seattle stories this year (except for your journey up there of course). The best part will be looking back on your experience in the snowy woods and Jeremiah's proud look as he comes out with the tree. Priceless! Thank you for including us in your year in Seattle. I love reading about what y'all are doing "up there". 🙂 Have a Merry Christmas!

    Tara Roney

  15. Susannah says:

    Abby, what a great story!! And the pictures were breath taking as usual!! Thank you for sharing your Christmas tree story with us! I personally LOVE the tree and think it's beautiful! 😉

  16. Anonymous says:

    What a very clever idea, place tree in front of mirror then tree twice as big and has twice as many lights this is genius move but tree and story make me very much in mood for Christmas and now we are much wiser for if we too have good fortune to select lovely tree in Washington we can get permit for big tree or we find a tree like Abby's. I vote for find a tree like Abby's.

  17. Rhett, Megan, Claire, Ford & Gus says:

    I love the tree story! It doesn't look too different from our tree here in Kenya! By the way, I gasped a little bit at the sight of dinner amongst all of that crystal. I would have been a nervous wreck with my little ones!

  18. Caitlin says:

    sweet Abby! what a perfect tree….love the story, the pictures, everything about this post! let's get together sooooon!

  19. Nancy says:

    Beautiful pictures! That snow looks so cold & pretty!!
    Glad you had a good Thanksgiving!

  20. Caroline says:

    I LOVE the Maddox family. Abby I must say you are looking quite stunning in all your pictures sista! 🙂

  21. Anonymous says:

    I love that tree!

  22. Anonymous says:

    Abby, abby, abby – i mean, what a tree:) I must say i scanned the pics before reading and let out a gutteral laugh at the tree… after reading it has grown on me.
    Alright then dont be upset i can feel the big guns – please keep the tree up so when we come and visit for the New Year i can see it in person.

  23. Kendall Boggs says:

    I can't stop looking at the pics on your blog!!! Can you please, please, please email me the name of the lens that your MIL gave you? I noticed such a difference in your pics after you got that. I absolutely love that little tree of yours! xo!

  24. azurae says:

    This tree rules.

  25. Melissa says:

    Sweet, sweet tree.

  26. emily says:

    this is a lovely tree and a family memory you will never forget. your children will tell their children about that adventure.

  27. The Mom says:

    She's Tree-lightful, she's tree-lovely…okay, so much for my weak attempts at humor. I think your tree is totally charming and my, my, what memories you have created. And who would think going to a Christmas tree lot is a memory after this outing! I did this with my Daddy and Uncle once as a child. We were stopped by a State Trooper as we were hauling the tree out of the woods, but that is a story for another day. You don't know me, but I came to you via Darby's blog. Merry Christmas and great joy!

  28. Anonymous says:

    I found your blog via Darby's and just wanted to say Welcome to Seattle!! I currently live in Seattle (Snoqualmie Ridge to be exact) and moved out here in 2002 so I know what its like being in a new place (and be away from home for the holidays) that you don't know many people, etc. It's random I know but if you have any questions about the city or want to chat over email (I'm a mom too!) please don't hesitate to email me { melissa (dot) madsen (at) yahoo (dot) com }

  29. Lucky Girl says:

    What an amazing story and a terrific memory for your family!!

  30. pam@pixelimpress says:

    oh my goodness… where are you? north bend. i live in snoqualmie. on the ridge. i popped over from darby's blog. i'm one of her sponsors and readers, of course. and i can't believe i read that you're just down the road!! love the tree! pam

  31. snekcip says:

    Popped in from "Fly through our window" and have to say…I truly enjoyed this post!! I loved the post, the pictures and that hilariously cute tree!!! What a beautiful memory!!! I plan on being back to your blog!! Definitely!!!

  32. Lauren K says:

    Hi Abby! It's Lauren, we met when you dropped off Konie at my house when she visited you a few weeks ago. I wanted to say I'm glad you are having such wonderful experiences out here and that I just LOVE your blog! You are a very talented writer and photographer. If you ever need anything at all, please call me.

  33. shea says:

    Love this tree and love the story even more. This is the first time I've visited and I enjoyed myself so much that I plan to come back!

  34. Carrie says:

    I'm sorry, but that's one of the most beautiful trees I've ever seen. See how the ornaments dangle off of it? Mine never do that because the tree is too darn dense. What a fabulous adventure you had, and a treasure of a tree to prove it.

  35. Amie Ezelle says:

    Abby, I never get tired of reading your post or looking at your beautiful pictures! Thank you for sharing your talents with the world 🙂 It makes me feel conected with you guys even though we are so far away! Love you all!

Leave a Comment