It was the worst-possible place for a pre-Christmas meltdown: Carol’s Christmas Tree Farm, (formerly Burnside’s) on Highway 2 near Greater Napanee. The annual outing is a decade-long family tradition, but on this occasion it was a daytrip disguised as just another Christmas chore.

In a less-stressed frame of mind I might have seen through my silliness. Other families were smiling and taking selfies in Santa’s sled. But it was Christmas and—seasonal spoiler alert!—there was too much to do and not enough time or energy to do it. All of my mind-over-mood strategies had failed. Pitching a fit was the next best option.

Standing with my hand on the trunk of a perfectly proportioned, pre-cut balsam fir, which had Martha Stewart written all over it, I glared at my family saying, “Let’s just get the biggest most expensive tree we can find and be done with it!”

While I conjured a bossier, less cooperative Lucy than Charles Schultz ever could have imagined, my husband and son sat huddled, whispering to each other with a bow saw between them. They were like Charlie Brown and Linus desperately in search of the true spirit of Christmas—a spirit which was not at all embodied at that moment by a mean mother with her “I find the tree, the tree does not find me!” quest for perfection.

We were at an impasse. It was two against one. Mark and Joe were still advocating for our wandering around the acreage in the freezing cold, combing the rows of trees in the way back of the farm where, no doubt, some terminally flawed little excuse for a Christmas tree was waiting to pluck at my son’s heartstrings.

My husband pleaded with me to indulge his Griswaldian family bonding fantasy but I shook my head and refused to let go of the beautiful balsam even as other potential buyers nosed around it. In the true spirit of the holidays I glared at those people too, as if to say, “Buzz off: this tree is mine!”

More than the Christmas time crunch it was vanity that caused me to dig my heels deep into the mud that day. I love my son but through the years he’s proven himself to be a major wild card when it comes to choosing the fruits of Mother Nature. Sure, we’ve made some memories that will no doubt last a lifetime but I’ve also sifted through a lot of microscopic strawberries, dirt-covered blueberries, wormy apples and warty pumpkins in the process. Joe seems to be genetically predisposed toward the small and defective, which is sweet in a way, but it didn’t bode well for a Grade ‘A’ classy Christmas tree.

I stood in the winter wind and stared into my son’s eyes utterly committed to my course of action. This was my Tiananmen Square. That’s when I saw it: the quiver of the lower lip, the squinting of the eyes, the tell-tale bowing of the child’s head.

In response to my defiance the kid had upped the ante and played...yup, you guessed it: the crying card.

I had a split-second to decide whether I, too, would play the crying card or cave. The big picture was, it was Christmas and I’d made my son cry. That’s when I asked the most edifying question of all time, “How important is it, really?” Finding the answer to be “Not very,” my snit-fit came to an end.

I loosened my grip on the designer tree, freed my boots, which at that point were altogether stuck in the mud, and joined my husband and son on the Christmas tree walkabout that had meant so much to them.

It was a tense truce, at first, but within about 30 minutes the war cloud was long forgotten. By then we’d gone as far to the outer edge of the farm as we could. That’s when my little Charlie Brown came face-to-face with the tree that had been looking for him all along, the one that needed us to bring it home for the holidays.

It was a cute little tree, too. Smaller, of course, than the one I’d had my greedy hand on, but not a pity party by any means. My husband put his arm around my shoulder, always on the lookout for the proverbial bright side: “We won’t need to use as many lights,” he said.

“It’s a beautiful tree,” I told my son, “it’ll be our best Christmas tree ever!”