While trolling the area’s street and back roads this week for Christmas tree lots and farms to photograph for a story, I ran across some memories of tree hunts of my own family history.
It seems odd now how unacknowleged the selection of a tree has been and at the same time central to my memory and appreciation for the season and family.
There was the Christmas of two trees when even in the 1960s our family couldn’t decide on the ultimate Christmas tree question – real or fake?
I usually come down on the side of a “real” tree; hence my use of the word “fake” for what others would more delicately describe as “artificial.”
Anyway, in this particular year in days gone by, my family couldn’t decide between a real tree and a fake one. We had options of a Colorado Blue Spruce purchased for under $20 from the local grocery store, a cut one from the family farm which was 50 miles from where we lived and an “artificial” aluminum tree. The debate was that you couldn’t put typical string lights on the aluminum tree because doing so would lead to someone being electrocuted. That would be bad at Christmastime my brother, Rick, said. You had to light it with a lamp that sat on the floor next to the tree and rotated multi-colored filters to shine across the shiny “branches.” Remember it was 1965.
For some reason, our family had not purchased the lighting device, so this particular artificial tree went without illumination. Despite our mother’s concerns in regard to the electrocution issue, (She had difficulty trusting that at least one of her three pre-teen sons could avoid doing something stupid.) Rick erected the aluminum tree in the boys’ bedroom. The family tree was purchased from the local Kroger store.
It was the first and only two-tree Christmas in the Adamson household of that era. Everybody knows you only have ONE Christmas tree. Otherwise how does Santa know where to leave your stuff?
Then there was the lumberjack phase of my life when Rick and I decided to take the truck to the farm and procure our own tree from our own land. Our older brother Mike would not involve himself in the tree adventure. As the lead teenager of the pack, it was all beneath him.
The week had been rainy and the back roads of the farm were muddy. The truck squirmed and wiggled its way to the spot I had imagined the appropriate tree would be.
We found what was, in my mind’s eye, the perfect tree. Rick noted however that it stood perhaps 20-feet tall. We might have difficulty placing it in our living room that had 8-foot ceiling. Wisely – and I might add – amazingly, I listened to my older brother’s counsel, and we chopped the top 6 or so feet out of the cedar.
Coming out of the sodden pasture was up hill and there was some doubt about whether we might spend that evening sleeping in the truck waiting for our nearby cousin to bring the tractor to pull us out. Fortunately the two of us mustered enough testosterone and engine revving to muscle ourselves out of that spot.
It is that tree that is the emblematic Christmas tree of that part of my life when I lived with my two brothers and parents in a two-bedroom, one bath house in Alabama. The image that springs to my mind with the mention of Christmas of those years is the tree, standing illuminated in the dark in our living room. Dinner was near completion, and I sat at the end of the table alone, gazing at the tree, waiting for our grandparents to arrive for the feast.
The house smelled of cedar and cornbread and turkey. It is a five-second clip imagery that says family.
It is odd what memories emerge and the power of holidays to define important times in our lives.