God, it was cold.
I didn't know it could get that cold.
I didn't know I'd ever be stupid enough to be outdoors in that kind of cold.
I didn't know I'd been stupid enough to marry someone stupid enough to work with people stupid enough to be out in that kind of cold.
It was our first December in Winnipeg.
Paul and I had grown up in New York City. There people went to an empty parking lot where the trees had magically appeared, like the ground beef at the local supermarket. No questions asked. No one wanted to get too personal with an ornament.
At the New York parking lot we'd browse, find a tree we liked and switch the price tag with the cheaper tree which no one liked. Then we'd carry the tree to the clerk, who gave us the fish eye as he noticed the fullness of such a "good find", sighed and took our money. The whole deal was done in ten minutes. Another Christmas had begun.
Apparently, that isn't good enough for Winnipeggers. Oh, no, they have to get down and dirty with their holiday bushes.
I'll never forget how happy Paul was when he came home and told me we'd been invited to join a group of Winnipeggers for a real, old-fashioned Christmas experience. If I'd had a clue I'd have realized that giving birth in a barn, unaided, would've been an easier old-fashioned Christmas experience. We were going to chop down a real Christmas tree, just like our ancestors.
Well, my parents are from Malta, a sunny Mediterranean island. It just wasn't in my genes to know how to dress for a freezing, miserable, forced march through a blizzard-hit forest. The windchill - which I still didn't understand - was in the "exposed skin can freeze in 2 minutes" range.
That didn't sound good, so I said, "Thanks, but no thanks."
Somehow Paul convinced me that his entire future career prospects, our unborn children's college fund, our grandchildren's lives and our golden years' security and comfort would all go up in smoke if I didn't join the mighty tree hunt.
His Jewish co-workers were going.
Everybody, even that ditzy receptionist who always dressed like a showgirl wannabe with skirts up to there, was going.
So, we were going.
God, it was cold.