Unlike most people who pick up a tree on their way home from the grocery store, already wrapped up and ready to go, our family devotes an entire afternoon and evening to our annual hunt for the perfect tree.
When I was little, our church used to run a Christmas tree lot as a fundraiser. I remember many a cold night playing hide and seek among the trees and drinking hot cocoa in the trailer. One of the bonuses of selling trees was that we always got the pick of the lot. So we are kind of spoilt.
Nowadays Dad usually spends several hours holding up tree after tree to show my mom and sister and I while we compare them all…This one’s too thin. That one’s too short. This one doesn’t have a good point for the star. That one has a crooked trunk. This one has a hole in the back. That one isn’t fresh enough. This one isn’t thick enough. You get the point. You can see why it takes us an entire afternoon to search for a tree!
Year after year the trees have gotten bigger and bigger. Last year, the tree was…well, it was ginormous. But this year we decided to go with a “small” 9-foot tree.
Once we finally settle on one, Dad straps it to the roof of the car, while repeatedly reassuring Mom that it is in fact secure and it’s not gonna fall off when we take a corner.
Then we bring it home and dad trims the bottom and puts it in the stand while we keep reminding him not to cut off too many branches. (This year, Dad had shoulder surgery, so Gary was dad’s stand-in).
Then Mom lays out all the lights to test if they’re working or not. When we were little, us kids used to get yelled at for stepping on the bulbs. Now we yell at the dogs.
Then dad puts on the lights. He is the master of the lights. And every year mom tells him to put on more lights than last year. She likes lights.
After that, Dad settles down with a cup of coffee and out come the ornaments. That’s me and my sister’s and whoever else is around the house’s job – random friends, students who don’t have Christmas trees, people who are staying with us. We each have special ornaments. And while we decorate, we talk about them all - where they came from, who gave them to us and when we got them. We remember the years that we forgot ornaments on the tree or that we didn’t set it up right and it fell over during the night.
When it’s all done, mom puts on the finishing touches and fills-in any spaces with red balls.
And every year Mom declares that this tree is more beautiful than the last…
…I’d have to agree.