We were dog-sitting over Thanksgiving weekend and on some of my walks with the dog, I noticed the number of homes in my area that already had trees up. Some, I’m sure were artificial trees. Ours went up last night.
It wasn’t that way growing up at least as a young kid. Living in urban Youngstown, we didn’t do the Christmas tree farm thing, probably the best way to get a good, fresh-cut tree. There used to be a vacant lot on the corner of South Maryland and Mahoning Avenue that we would buy our trees from, which would mean we’d only need to take it a block to our house.
Usually dad would get the tree in early December to ensure getting a good tree before the selection was picked over. Since we had a detached garage, he would cut the bottom of the tree so it would take water and put the tree trunk into a bucket of water to keep it well-watered. Then, about a week before Christmas, he’d bring the tree in, after he had put up our outside lights. As I recall, this was usually the time, if the tree wasn’t quite right, when you’d hear about it. “That trunk is crooked”, “It’s leaning too far to the right”. Sometimes he’d end up securing the tree with a bit of twine attached to something solid.
Then he would put up all the lights. He had the old fashioned lights with bulbs and the first thing was getting those strings untangled, usually with a few choice expressions. He would really fuss with the lights, putting “reflectors” on each light so they looked like miniature stars. Then he would position ornaments, garlands, and tinsel (remember tinsel?) so that each light reflected just right off of these. His trees were works of art. When I was a young child I could just sit for hours following the trail of lights around the tree and staring at the various ornaments.
For a year or so my dad worked in Baltimore during the weeks and came home on the weekends. Because my dad’s time at home was limited, my mom asked me to buy the tree. So I took our old red wagon up to the tree lot and tried to remember all that mom taught me about buying trees. Look at the trunk and make sure it was straight, about 6 1/2 feet high, check the needles to see if they are green or turning brown, shake the tree and see if needles fall off. I spent a long time studying all the trees there until I found one I thought met all of these criteria. Bought and paid, I brought it home, cut a section of the bottom of the trunk so it would take water, and stored it in the garage in a bucket of water.
I held my breath when dad came home. He still was the one to decorate the tree and I waited to see what he thought. He hauled it into the house, walked all around it and positioned it, and finally said those words that made my Christmas: “You bought a good tree.” I felt like I grew up that day in my dad’s eyes. That Christmas tree smelled especially good!
In later years, they bought an artificial tree and later yet, to stored the tree with the lights on it. We never did the silver trees with the rotating light that reflected off the tree in different colors. That just seemed too glitzy. About the same time, in the late ’60’s my wife’s parents bought an artificial tree. In later life, we inherited that tree. It is still stored somewhere in our utility room–we haven’t had the heart to pitch it yet.
There is something about the wonder of a lit tree in a darkened room that makes me want to just sit and look. I come no where close to my dad’s tree decorating skills. Is it childhood memories or simply the mute, shining beauty of the tree? Whatever it is, I love those moments and Christmas memories.
What are your memories of buying and putting up Christmas trees at your home?