For three years, we've spent a morning in December just south of town, at this sweet, simple place called Heritage Farms. It's nothing fancy, a little unkempt really, but there's magic there and it's become one of my very favorite traditions of Christmas. With all the places to be and family to see this month, this is something we've kept special for just our little family and three years later, it's pretty neat to see how that family has changed with each year.
There was our very first year, our simple world completely smitten with this little two year old boy, who didn't bat an eye before climbing into that donkey pen or climbing into the arms of Santa as he greeted the rest of his visitors to that log cabin in the woods. The weather was warm enough to leave our coats in the car and I felt like I was dancing on a cloud all morning. I didn't know places like this existed and I felt as though I discovered a diamond in the rough.
Then there was last year, nine months pregnant and committed to giving my boy the most special of Christmases. I remember getting all teary as I watched him hold that baby bunny so seriously, picturing him holding his baby sister so soon. It was cold, but there was a storybook snow that blanketed the ground and made the perfect conditions for snuggling under sleeping bags on the way to the cabin. Too chilled to talk, we huddled close, listened to the jingle bells around the horses neck, and felt the spirit of Christmas warm us up.
And now, this year. Cruz started off the morning quite cranky, preferring to sit like an old man in his rocking chair and resist any sort of fun; that is, until I picked him up, told him we were going on an adventure and sat his butt on a horse. He resisted at first, but we soon saw a smirk emerge as that sweet horse paraded around in circles and made Cruz feel like a cowboy. Mila didn't ride, but she watched her brother with the biggest smile on her face, so happy to be out in the fresh air with her favorite people. Favorite people excluding Santa Claus, of course. I'm sure you can guess how that story ended... :)
Heritage Farms brought the same simple charm it has every year. There were the wreaths hung on the white barn windows that greeted us as we pulled up the drive. There was the same dinner bell that rang when it was our time to climb in the horse-drawn wagon. There was the usual horse trot through the woods and the first glimpses of Santa as we waved from the front porch. There was the same spread, cinnamon rolls and apple slices with cream cheese dip, the same sweet lady playing Jingle Bells from the wooden piano at the entrance, the same fire pit we sneak out to in order to escape the congested crowd in line for a perfect picture with Santa. These are the things we've come to expect, the things I look forward to about this little place.
But with the old, there were new moments, too, little memories that will time stamp this place for me again this year just like in years' past. There was Cruz, so crabby at first, sitting like a boy who just lost his dog but revealing his soft, sweet side throughout the morning. How proud he looked to be riding that horse, how carefully he sipped his hot cocoa, and how confidently he sat on Santa's lap and this time, told him we wanted a Transformer. Then there was Mila, so so happy all morning long, her eyes like saucers when Beau handed her the reigns to the wagon or when she tried her first taste of cinnamon roll.
And then there was this moment. We were sitting by the fire pit waiting for our turn on the wagon. Cruz wasn't exactly himself and we were all doing our best to butter him up. We set Mila down on the bench right next to him and she felt so big. I'm not sure if she was cold or was also doing her part to butter her big brother up, but she laid her little head on his shoulder. He put his hand on her leg and they hugged and loved on each other and made all of us around them melt. Kids are just the best.
I love this place and hope for many more Decembers spent at this cabin in the woods. I hope for the familiar charm that made us love this place three years ago and I hope for new memories that show our growth and remind us to appreciate our present.