Over the river and through the woods… No, not to grandmother’s house. My grandparents have all been gone for a long time. Instead, I’m off to find a Christmas tree! The perfect one.
During the first half of my life my family would always wait until a week or so before Christmas and go off to find a fir or spruce tree somewhere. Sometimes we’d go into the woods to cut one down. Or we might go to a retail operation of some sort to get one already cut. And one year I remember that we got one that came with a root ball wrapped in burlap so we could plant it after the holidays.
That one was short and we kept it in a big galvanized tin wash bucket. It got planted in the back yard and as far as I know it’s still there. Part of a hedge. That was fifty years ago. It must be huge by now.
The tree would go into a bucket and wait outside, in the cold, until Christmas Eve when my father and I would bring it inside and stick it in a dinky little tree stand. I don’t know how that thing held the tree but everyone had the same kind of three legged red and green contraption.
We’d put the lights on it, attaching each bulb to a tree limb, hoping like hell that none of the bulbs would go out and darken the whole string. Then we’d eat dinner and go to church. And after that, we’d put on the decorations. My mother would stay up several hours after we kids went to bed (but not to sleep!) to put hundreds of individual strands of tinsel all over the tree. How it would glimmer and shine. She always said Santa put them there. Ho, ho, ho!
During the second half of my life the routine has changed. We launch our quest for that perfect tree the day after Thanksgiving. And it goes straight from the top of the car to a tree stand and into the family room. Over the years we’ve had the traditional spruce and fir trees. And also leyland cyprus and cedar trees and pine trees. I live in Georgia and blue spruce don’t grow here naturally.
Some years we’d go to a tree farm to cut them down. With a little bitty manual saw. Or we might get the people who worked there to cut it for us. With a chain saw. We have gotten fresh cut trees from nurseries, and charitable organizations, and the hardware store. They are all different, but all good.
The first tree my wife and I got was an Italian green colored shrub. The Amalfi Coast where we lived isn’t known for its forests or wild Christmas trees. But it was green and sort of tall. And we stuck it in a bucket of water and decorated it. It fell over in the living room and I ended up tying it up to the handle on the door to one of the verandas of our villa.
It always takes several days to get the lights on it, but I can just toss them on and stuff them into the depths of the branches. No attaching. And if one bulb goes out, the rest keep burning!
Ornaments take several more days as we dig through boxes of treasured memories and place them lovingly in a special place. Things the kids made. Pictures from years gone by. Ornaments from places we’ve been. Oh, the nostalgia. Put up an ornament. Tell a story about it. Put up another. It takes forever!
But even the most Charlie Brown tree looks beautiful when we are done. Short looks tall and scrawny seems bushy and burly! It’s magical. Like this time of year.
I love Christmas. Maybe not for all the right reasons. But it all makes me happy and I do my best to spread joy and cheer wherever I go. And that’s what it’s really all about – making the world a better place for everyone.
That’s part of my story. What’s yours?