Christmas Tree with presents, circa 1963
It's the most wonderful time of the year once again and our Christmas tree is the focal point of our decorations and the center of the holiday action. When I was very young, we had a live Christmas tree in our living room, glowing with those large colorful bulbs and pieces of tinsel that would stick to you when you walked by and clog your sweeper when you ran over them. I'm not sure when it was discovered that my brother and I were allergic to the beautiful pines, but sometime around 1971, after my father bought an aluminum tree during a visit to an auction, our Christmases with live trees came to an end. I don't recall being too disappointed because the aluminum tree was the "in" thing and it was very pretty. It came complete with the noisy color wheel and red and green "pom-poms" that were attached to the end of each branch. Aside from the fact that it took forever to put up, we were pretty happy with that silvery symbol of Christmas spirit. We used that tree for several years until we bought a new, green artificial tree. I thought sometimes that it might be fun to go to a farm or even a lot and buy a real tree, but we thought our tree was beautiful and the ritual of decorating the tree each year with our special family ornaments was something we looked forward to. Our trees were not of the "designer" variety. We used the same roll of garland and with the exception of a new ornament now and again, our tree consisted of beloved handmade ornaments from our school days, a vintage collection of decorations from the early days of my parents marriage, and some items that were gifts of love from other family members and friends.
When my husband and I were married, our first tree was a small, tabletop model that he had purchased for me to use in my bedroom the year before we were married. It was tiny, but it was perfect with our "First Christmas Together" ornament hanging proudly in the front. In subsequent years, we had a used tree, and then finally, we bought a tree with enough branches to hold our growing collection of ornaments that enumerated all the milestones in our family. We have always loved our tree, but, one year, we decided we wanted to give our oldest son (and ourselves!) the experience of going out to a Christmas tree farm to cut down a tree. My sister in law decided she wanted a live tree, so off we went with her to find the "perfect" tree. She picked a farm about an hour away from our home. No problem. The drive would just be a special part of the experience. Right after we arrived at the farm, it began to snow. Great! This would just add to the Christmas spirit. The wind began to pick up and it got colder and colder. For whatever reason, we just couldn't seem to find the "right" tree. My 4 year old son's excitement and patience was wearing thin. Cold, tired, and hungry his anthem became "Just pick one!". My sister in law pointed at one and said "Okay. That one!". Using the tree saw that was provided by the farm, my husband was able to quickly cut down the tree and it was wrapped and placed into our van and with a sense of relief we headed back home. By now, it was getting dark and we were now very ready to get to decorating. Upon unloading the tree and setting it up in the stand, we discovered that the tree must have been growing on a hill and it was too crooked to stand up straight in the tree stand. So, my husband began to try to level the tree by cutting the stump, little by little. Unfortunately, we don't own a tree saw and the one he was using quickly became covered by tree sap and soon was almost useless. He would cut a little bit, pick the tree up, sit it in the stand, and it would fall over! By the time the tree became level enough to stand up straight, it was no longer the majestic evergreen we had started with, but was instead a shadow of it's former self and became the inspiration for our tradition family rendition of "Oh Christmas Bush". We laughed so hard, we cried.
So, while the memory of the "Great Christmas Tree" hunt may not have been exactly what we had in mind, it certainly will be an experience we will cherish.
The 1971 "Shiny aluminum Christmas Tree"
Our first Christmas Tree, 1981