IN THE GLORIOUS aftermath of last week's snowfall, we ventured north in search of The Perfect Tree. Others get Scotch Pine or White Pine or some version of fir, even something out of a box. We get Perfect. Every Christmas.
We had our mittens, our bungee cords, our van and all but one of our expert consultants. (We keep one in reserve for the final verdict.)
Along Dulaney Valley Road, we passed an evergreen phalanx, each member grown to majestic height and girth, incentive for carol and myth. O'er onetime fields we went as the youngest woods- people recited their parts in the school pageant over and over and over and. . . .
We have been eclectic in our choice of tree farms, but this year we hoped to find the one we visited last year. We wanted to prove the resilience of our memory, of course, but the hot chocolate, the smiling clerks and the machine for wrapping plastic mesh around our Perfect selection was drawing us, too.
We were pleased and gratified to learn that our fields were not just of dreams but very real, tucked snugly behind the farmer's house.
At the lean-to, we picked up our cross-cut saw with the orange handle and the saber-like teeth. Ready-to-harvest product rolled out uniformly at our feet. We stood in the snow and read from a menu, instructing as to price and location.
Then, trudging along a snow-clad road, past a length of wire and split rail fencing and up a slight grade, we passed the two-footers arrayed in perfect rows across the lower-most field. On the far hill, we found our tree.
''That's a nice one,'' said one of the pageant stars.
''Very full,'' said the oldest, now familiar with the vernacular of selection.
Perfect, I was thinking. To forestall so rapid an end to our adventure, I said, ''Maybe we should look a bit more.'' We did, but saw no rival. Other searchers had been walking past this beauty for weeks, it appeared, maybe even years. Another miracle.
Within minutes, the tree was down and lying beside the farmer's roadway, waiting for the man with the small tractor and two-wheeled trailer for trundling downed trees to the checkout. The young lumberjacks ran back, anxious for their cup of cheer.
As repeat customers, they learned, we would get a 10 percent discount. Traditions save! We strapped our well-wrapped purchase to the roof rack and headed home.
In the living room, we made another precision cut at the bottom of the trunk, pruning a few branches so the silvery collar of the old stand would fit. In deference to the ultimate consultant, we purchased a white plastic bag to be tucked out of sight at the bottom in position to be drawn up over the top in mid-January (or early February) when the tree comes down.
Then, we did it all again. Another precision cut, a few more branches snipped, a bit more bark expunged, the big baggie re-positioned. We turned then to a rather existential discussion of wires: If a tree doesn't fall in the living room has it really been properly installed when wires are used if they can't be seen?
By now, the consultant-in-reserve had appeared to supervise tilt and placement: A bit left perhaps. . . . Turn it toward me. . . . A little too much. . . . Back toward the mantelpiece . . . You come take a look.
One more precision cut was needed, no small thing as the household saw tends to seize up in the sap. Small abrasions were beginning to appear on the forearms of the chief woodsman.
Ah, but then, she said, ''There! That's it!'' The tree stood serenely still (without benefit of truss or of baggie, which had been discarded and forgotten or vice versa).
As we worked, another miracle: the tree was so fat and full it had been hiding its riches. For half its height it had two trunks, sublimely straight and parallel.
We could have two angels.
Does it get more perfect than that?
:. C. Fraser Smith is a reporter for The Sun.