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Growing up, my family always had a live tree at Christmas. The weekend after Thanksgiving, we would go to the farmers market and pick out our tree. But this was no casual affair. We had to have a perfect tree.
My mom grew up in a house with artificial trees. So the very first year my parents were married, my Dad told her they could get a real tree. From what I’ve been told, that tree was perfect! Beautiful on all sides, lush and green and full, with no holes or imperfections. Some of their recollection might be tainted by the newlywed glow, but still I’m sure it was a nice tree. However, it set a horrible precedent. Now, every subsequent year, the tree needed to be just as good.
Our dining room and living room was one long room. There was a single step down from one to the other and a railing that separated the 2 rooms with an opening in the middle. At Christmas, the tree went in that opening. So instead of being able to find a great tree with a bad side that you stick toward a corner, this tree had to look great on all sides. Each thanksgiving weekend, we spent what felt like forever (to a young child’s mind) looking at all the trees to find the best one available.
When I was 4, my mother went back to school. When it came time to go pick one out, she had too much homework and was unable to go with us. Knowing how particular she was, my dad was hesitant to go without her. But she assured us as she left for the library, “I’ll love whatever tree you pick out.”
We did actually find a pretty good tree that year, but as my dad and I were waiting to get it loaded into the truck, we came across a pile short tree stems with most of the branches cut off. These were the leftovers from making wreaths and garland. On a whim, my Dad asked the stall owner how much for one. Seeing his puzzled look, my dad quickly explained his plan for a joke. The guy laughed to himself and told us to take whatever we liked. We picked out the saddest looking tree we could find; a sad 3 foot tall one whose branches were mostly gone and leaves nearly all missing.
Back at home, Dad made a make-shift tree stand out of 2 2x4s and nailed the tree to it. We decorated it with a strand of lights and even put a few ornaments on it for full effect. I couldn’t stop giggling, so excited for our prank. We placed it right in view of the front door and waited for her to come home.
When my Mom pulled in the driveway, I’m sure she immediately knew something was up – 4 year olds are not subtle, and me running out to meet her along with my uncontrollable laughter must have been a clue. “Mom, we found the best tree!” I told her. I led her inside for the big reveal. She took one look at, paused, and – to her credit – said “Looks great!” After a good laugh from her and my dad, he eventually brought in the real tree, and we spent the night decorating it as a family.
Over the years, we have had some very beautiful trees. But I will never forget that sad little Charlie Brown tree and all the joy it brought to us that Christmas.
Until next week,
Alana and all of us at Beth’s Christmas.