Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas Trees: Past and Present

Normally in our family, the weekend after Thanksgiving is reserved for getting Christmas trees. Red cedars grow wild and in abundance here and are considered noxious weeds by the locals because they are hard to kill, even by cutting them down. So basically other than a little bit of time, a bow saw and some elbow grease, they are free.

After airing up the trailer tires and then driving to the gas station to finish filling them up, we drove down to the farm so that my mom could get her Little Abbey fix, I could troubleshoot some computer problems and then eat lunch. After letting lunch digest for the proper amount of time, we drove to an unfarmable tract of land that my parents own and where red cedar trees have been known to prosper.

Back in my childhood, we always seemed to disagree on trees. My brother and one parent on one side and myself and the other parent would always be on the other side. At first there were promises that if they got this tree this year, we could decide next year but time plays havoc on that idea and by the time the following year rolled around, nobody could remember whose year it was to decide. Since as farmers, we reserve our pockets for needful things like pocket knives, keys, and misc. nuts and bolts, we never had a coin to flip. Thus began our family tradition of flipping a glove, thumbs up or down, for deciding rights. Once again time was the enemy and I never could see if thumb up or down had the same chances as coin flips. I suspect not.

This year, Little Abbey was along so we loaded her up into the off-road stroller and wheeled her off into the grove of trees. We've been picking this area of trees for the last decade so the good trees are about all too big, have deformities or haven't had time to grow much. My parents found a gorgeous tree but it was too big to fit in their living room so I told them they could visit it at my place and cut it down. They later found a smaller one that suit their purposes and cut it down. Trees loaded, we headed back to our house and they theirs.

As a kid, we lived in an old farmhouse with higher ceilings and thus could get bigger trees than either of our families can now. I suppose that is why we always had frustrations once we got home. You see, the larger the tree, the larger the trunk. Tree stands, even our heavy duty one, are pretty small and sometimes things just don't work very well. We would always end up having to cut off another lower branch or two causing bald spots to appear where previously there were none. Sometimes we would even have to whittle down the diameter just to fit it into our square holed stand. All this seemed like life or death back then when in my present frame of mine, I never remembered any of this being visible once the tree was up and decorated.

Back home, I got the tree carried into the house and with my wife's help set squarely in the tree stand. The very first thing I do is pour in a gallon of water (the capacity of my tree stand) along with a vial of green food coloring. My tree, unlike the ones Lazy Iguana gets to pick from, is barely an hour old from it's be-rooting and thus drinks it up within minutes. Within hours the tree is as green as can be. I also regularly water it for the next week or so to keep everything from drying out and becoming a fire hazard. Since Saturday when we put it up, it has sucked up well over five gallons of water.

We started a fire in the fireplace and began the job of decorating which in my opinion, is always anti-climatic compared to the 'hunting and gathering' of the tree. We string up our lights, bulbs and eclectic assortment of ornaments from two cultures and hand-me-downs. Little Abbey mostly watched us from her nearby rug in front of the warmth of the fire and aimlessly played with her collection of toys. Next year she will learn about Christmas all over again and in the years after, she will hopefully enjoy in our tradition. I can't wait to relive it through her eyes.

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