Friday, December 9, 2016

A Childhood Memory Of Finding A Christmas Tree

Do you have memories of going with your family to find just the right Christmas tree? Maybe it was on a snowy night, cold and clear. Or perhaps a Saturday afternoon when you went out to the country to cut down a tree. My family went to the same tree lot every year. Today's story is about the simple act of a family finding the right tree which has stayed a fond memory. You, too, can write about the same topic. Let your family know what it was like when you were growing up. 

A Christmas Tree, A Pink Dress and Golden Wings
By Nancy Julien Kopp

 In the 1940’s, we city folk didn’t cut down a tree in the fields but kept our own tradition. On a cold December evening, Dad announced that it was time to find a Christmas tree. My two younger brothers and I grabbed heavy coats, hats, gloves and snow boots, and flew down three flights of stairs to our 1939 Plymouth. Our excitement bubbled over in giggles and hoots.

The corner lot Dad drove to, normally empty, now held dozens of evergreen trees. The pines and firs seemed to have appeared magically, lined up like the toy soldiers my brothers played with.  A wire had been strung around the lot and bare light bulbs attached. There was plenty of light to allow buyers see the assortment of trees that would decorate the homes in our neighborhood.
The proprietors, who were also hunters, had erected a wooden teepee-like frame in a prominent corner to display two dead deer and a black bear. They were hung from hooks and occasionally swayed when the wind gusted.

My brothers and I marched round and round the frozen animals.

“Go ahead, touch it,” Howard dared.
My hand reached within inches of the thick, matted fur of the bear, but I quickly drew it back. “You first,” I challenged, but Howard only circled the animals, hands behind him.

Meanwhile, Dad walked the rows of trees, pulling a few upright, shaking the snow off.

He called to us and we crunched across the snow-packed ground

 Dad held a tree upright. “No,” we chorused. “It’s not big enough.”

We followed Dad and thumbed our noses at several other trees. “Not big enough,” we repeated, stamping cold feet to warm them.

The owner ambled over, so bundled up he looked kin to the dead bear. He kept a cigar clamped in his teeth and wore gloves with the fingers cut off, so he could peel off dollar bills from the stack he carried to make change.

Dad shook the man’s hand and said, “OK, let’s see the good trees now.”

The burly man moved the cigar from one side of his mouth to the other, rolled his eyes and finally gestured for us to follow him.

We scooted across the pine-scented lot to a brick building. The man opened a door, and we tromped single-file down a long flight of concrete steps.

Even more trees leaned against the walls. Dad pulled out one after the other until he found a tree that we three children deemed “big enough.”

Silence now, as the serious part of this adventure commenced. Dad and the cigar chomping man dickered about the price. Finally, money changed hands, and Dad hoisted the tree. We jostled one another up the steps to be closer to the green treasure.

Dad fastened the tree to the top of the car with the rope he’d brought with us. The boys and I knelt on the back seat, watching to make sure the tree didn’t slide off the roof of the car during the short drive.

Once home, Dad hauled the tree up three flights of stairs to our apartment and put it on our small outdoor balcony. We’d wait until close to Christmas to bring it in and decorate the branches. Several times a day, I peered through the glass door to check that no one had stolen it. Why I thought someone would climb to the third floor balcony to steal our tree is a wonder.

Days later, Dad carried the tree inside and tried to put it in the stand, but it was no use. The tree was too tall. It should have been no surprise, as it happened every year. He always caved to our chorus of “not big enough.” Dad found his favorite saw and cut several inches off the tree trunk. When he put it in the stand, it rose like a flagpole, straight and tall, nearly touching the ceiling. There was a collective “Ahhh” from the entire family.

Dad hummed a Christmas tune as he strung the many-colored lights, then Mother helped us hang sparkly ornaments, and we finished with strand upon strand of silver tinsel, being warned to place it strand by strand. “No throwing it at the tree,” Mom said. Near the finish line, we did throw that tinsel when Mom went to the kitchen. It was great fun to toss it and see how high we could throw.

Finally, Dad climbed a step-stool and placed the last piece on the top. What joy to see our special angel with the pink satin dress and golden wings. The tree was so tall that her blonde hair skimmed the ceiling. I visited her every day while the tree was up. There were days when it seemed she smiled at me. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without her.

That sweet angel got lost somewhere over the years. Most likely, she’d become tattered and torn, and Mother discarded her long after we children had grown and left home.

Now, my husband brings our tree upstairs from a basement storage closet. Artificial, always the same height, never needs to be made shorter. It’s easier, but I miss those cold, snowy excursions to the tree lot with my brothers. I still put an angel on top of the tree. She’s nice but not quite the same as the one with the pink dress and golden wings. Not once has she smiled at me.

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