Ye Olde Christmas Tree – Part One

An unsheared Christmas tree in New York State ...
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Christmas Past

Do you remember Christmas past when the snow outside the window glittered like a thousand diamonds under the winter-pale moon?

Everyone hovered around the door waiting for that last family member to arrive. The holiday table in the dining room groaned under the weight of a huge stuffed turkey, mounds of mashed potato, and an assortment of vegetables – peas, carrots, corn, onions, and squash.

And the Christmas tree stood in its place of honor in the living room. Lights on the tree glowed jewel-like with splashes of ruby red, emerald green, and sapphire blue. Presents, gaily wrapped in shiny paper, lay heaped under the tree, and promised hours of happiness to come.

Christmas was perfect back then! And it all started with the perfect Christmas tree!

Buying a Tree

Tree from 2008
When did it become expected that every year we should drive to a giant lot, a lot that before Thanksgiving lay empty and abandoned, a lot that once belonged to a failed business – to look for our perfect Christmas tree?

Last year Harold and I reached the lot and found trees stacked against lumber frames, wrapped in brown cord. The trees were grouped with short trees at the front, and very tall trees at the back. As we got out of the Baja (cruck), I realized that we may have waited too long, that we would find no smaller trees, only very tall ones that required a castle keep for display.

We finally picked out a tree and the worker at the lot snipped the cord and shook the tree out for us. After a shower of needles settled onto the trampled snow around our feet, we examined the tree for imperfections. No, this one was not right. There was a bare spot near the top.

We picked out another. (This is the royal ‘we’ here! I am the one doing the picking while Harold waits around to put the tree in the Baja.) Snip. A shower of needles. Well, this one was kind of wide. Snip. Again needles rattled to the ground. No, that tree was pitiful, a Charlie Brown tree. Snip, another tree, but no, I think I liked the first one the best. Harold is used to this process.

It reminds him of when I want to move the furniture around and he has to lift that heavy couch and try it in ten different spots – before I decide that the first spot was the best.

We took the first tree. We gave the lot attendant half a paycheck, stuck the tree out the back of our Baja, and proudly drove off with our purchase. Gee, we just spent more on our tree than we did on presents for Uncle Joe, Aunt Sally, and all the kids!

Christmas Present

This year we decided that we were going to do things the old-fashioned way.

Bennie looking into the woods
On Saturday, we strapped Bennie into his harness, grabbed a small hand saw, and headed out through our back yard to the woods trail. We were going to find the perfect tree! An hour later, we inspected tree number two hundred and twenty-nine or so it seemed.
I thought I would be smart and had worn mud boots on my feet because the woods were so wet. This was one of the first winters without snow in mid-December. My feet were dry, but the rough ground made walking in the boots really tough, and my feet were cold. Bennie was happy, though. He kept finding rabbit droppings and fresh deer treats everywhere. It was a game to see if he could grab some before I realized what he was eating and yanked his collar back.

What about that tree I asked Harold? The Griswold family Christmas tree. It stood forty feet off the ground. Harold said it would take him until Christmas to cut the tree down with the saw that he brought.

The tree we left standing
We trudged on. When we reached the property line at the brook, we would have to turn around. Then Harold saw it. The perfect tree. It stood ten feet tall. It was nice and full. When the bottom was cut off and the slender stalk at the top clipped back, it would be perfect for the living room. Harold cut it down.
I led Bennie back home as Harold shouldered the tree and carried it home, only a mile away. We got it home and stood it against the garage until we could get the tree stand and decorations out.

I was so excited. This tree would look great. The holidays were definitely looking up! I told my daughter, Christie, about the tree.

Giving it away

Christie liked the idea of cutting down a tree instead of buying one. She came out to the house on Sunday with her husband, Sean, and their two dogs, Hunter and Carma. A family outing! Out we trudged again, but in a different direction. Oh yeah, I wore my hiking boots.

The dogs were great. The horses had ridden this route and the horse droppings made the deer and rabbit offerings the day before look pitiful. I was leading Carma, and she inspected every mound.

Then Sean found it. Half a Christmas tree! If they put it in the corner, surely no one would notice that it was half a tree? Christie said, ‘Sean, it won’t work.’ It was getting late in the day. Disappointed, we headed back, looking over all the trees we had already rejected. Gee, this was supposed to be easy.

Harold and I decided to offer Christie and Sean the tree we had cut down. We returned to the house, helped put the dogs back in their car, and loaded up our tree in our truck for delivery. Away went our perfect Christmas tree to Christie and Sean’s house.

Harold said, ‘It was the right thing to do.’

Now what?

Continued. . . .