Traditionally Speaking

My family has a tradition. Every year, toward the end of November or the first part of December, each of us takes a break from our lives to meet at the Festival of Trees held at the South Towne Exposition Center.

It’s one of few traditions, as my family maybe has a handful of them, but it is my favorite by far. It might be the aisles upon aisles of extravagantly decorated Christmas trees, the savory smell of sweet rolls in the air or it could have something to do with spending time with my 6-year-old niece.

The Festival of Trees is an annual fundraiser for Primary Children’s Medical Center. Typically tickets are no more than $5, which grants attendees access to a holiday wonderland of sorts. Thousands come to the event for various reasons, but generally, I think it is in support of a good cause.

After meeting my brother, my Mom and my niece Makayla to carpool, we started driving toward the Expo Center when we began noticing a number of red tail lights ahead. We finally found a parking space in an overflowing, dirt-covered lot across the street. The crowds have grown over the years.

My first memory of the Festival of Trees was talking to an “elf” in one of those old-school pay phone booths when I was 4 or 5. I can’t recall what we said to one another, though I distinctly remember thinking this elf was psychic for some reason.

The Elf Pay Phone Booth was and still is one of the attractions in the Kid’s Corner, a booth area set-up where children can decorate paper reindeer antlers with sequins, go ice fishing for a prize or have their nails painted. They didn’t have the manicure table set-up when I was their age – a shame in my book.

The three of us followed around my niece as she made her way around the Kid’s Corner. Her first stop was the Bubble Machine, where she stood on a platform suspended over a kiddie pool, filled with bubble solution. A hula-hoop dropped down around her, pulling back up a wave of bubbles for her to blow. Her attempt at the Bubble Machine was successful, and her smile made me smile.

After a few more booths, my Mom and I sat down on chairs arranged in the center of the area. As kids and their families meandered all around, I began to people-watch, which I’m sure many of you do and may or may not admit to doing. I like to think of myself as a thoughtful observer of human nature.

“You know sometimes, I think ‘for sure, I want kids,’ but then I come to places like this and it’s intimidating,” I said to my Mom. “I see all of these parents chasing around their kids. I don’t know if having a family is something I could handle. I can barely handle myself.”

My Mom multitasked listening to me while watching my niece ice fish at another booth.

“I think it’s different when they’re your own kids,” my Mom said. “I mean, kids cry, but you never cried like that. Well, your brother did, but… I don’t think you should worry. ”

As far as the family thing goes, I do want one – maybe two or three kids, I just don’t know. I was barely able to find time for the Festival of Trees this year. But I did make it. It’s tradition, and the spirit of this tradition is worth keeping alive.

Mallory Black is the News Editor at the UVU Review student newspaper at Utah Valley University. Follow her on Twitter at @mblack47.

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