Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Mother of All Christmas Trees

I finally decorated our Christmas tree Thursday night. It has been standing in our living room for 10 days, soaking up water, waiting for the time when I could put the ornaments on.

It all started the day after we got back from our Thanksgiving trip to Colorado. Knowing that a snow was coming, I went to Cummings Christmas Tree lot on 1300 East hear in Salt Lake. I wasn't going to go to Harmons (grocery store) again this year because (a) our tree was practically dead by Christmas Day, and (b) this year, I had high ceilings to play with in our new home.

After recovering from sticker shock and a great deal of perusing, I finally settled on a Fraser fir from Oregon.

Being at this lot brought to mind memories of past Christmas trees. When I was growing up, we had a firm and fast rule about Christmas decorating in our house: no Christmas music on the HiFi until after Thanksgiving; decorations went up two weeks before Christmas, and the tree went up one week before. My dad always bought Scotch pines; I guess he figured those lasted the longest. 

Christmas 1964 in Marion, Ohio. I loved that battleship.

In Salem, Illinois, where I grew up until I was almost nine, Dad went down to a little gas station and market (about three blocks away) and picked out a tree in the lot behind the store. Later, when we moved to Carmi, the tree came from a lot set up between the Dairy Queen and Brazier, which closed for the winter.

I look at these trees in the few pictures I have and think, OMG those things were ugly, i.e., the way they were decorated. Of course, I (and the rest of us kids) didn't know any better; that's just the way the tree was. We had about 3-4 boxes of glass ornaments and some styrofoam ones (ugh) (notice the bell above my head as well as the Christmas tree and star off to the left). No tree skirt. Our favorite part was putting on the tinsel (do they still sell that?).

In later years, we started using gold foil garland, which was a real jazzer-upper for us. The above Polaroid picture, albeit of terrible quality, was taken at Christmas 1967 - our first year in Carmi - and is priceless to me because it shows my mother smiling and relaxed. My little sister, almost two years old, is sitting next to her. Mantle decorated, stockings hung.

My most memorable Christmas tree excursion was when I was a freshman in college, when I made my one and only trip to a tree farm. I came home for break a day or two before Christmas and found that my (by then several years divorced) mother had not bought a tree. I checked everywhere in Carmi but could not find one. 

I shared my plight with a good friend, Lisa, and she said she knew of a tree farm ... in Kentucky ... across the Ohio River. We drove to Cave-in-Rock, an hour or so due south of Carmi, took a ferry across the river and then drove a short distance to a tree farm. Found a huge tree, the guy cut it down, then we hauled it back across the river, then made the return trip to Carmi. This really was an over the river and through the woods trip.

Loading the tree on my roof rack

So getting back to the present ... I had originally planned to keep the tree on the back patio for a few days before putting it up, but I was told by the guys at the lot that I only had an hour or so before the tree would seal off the bottom again. That meant I had to get it in the house and into the stand right away. Then I realized that Mark wouldn't be home. I was on my own with a 12' Fraser fir.

As I got the tree off the car and struggled to the bailing string off, I was beginning to get a sense of the challenge ahead of me. I had to get it in the stand, then get this heavy tree that was almost twice my height upright. It took a couple of tries, but I finally got it up and tightened the support screws as I prayed that the tree wouldn't topple over.

The next challenge was to get it in the house and set it upright once again. This was no easy task. I had put a folded sheet on the floor on which the tree would stand (to help prevent water damage to the hardwood), and when I tried to stand the tree up, the sheet kept sliding across the floor. After several attempts, I was finally able - with one superhuman thrust - to set the tree upright. Then adjusting the support screws. Finally, it was done.

There the tree would stand for a week, with no lights. There was too much else going on. Painters were coming, yada yada yada. Finally, earlier this week, I got the lights on. I frankly had been dreading the task, but it ended up not being as bad as I thought it might be. Then, Thursday night, the ornaments went on. And on the seventh day, I rested. But behold, I beheld the tree and it was good.

When I was married, we had a tradition of adding at least one ornament each year, commemorating some event that year or someplace we had traveled. After Mark and I got together, I continued that tradition. I admit it, I have been somewhat of an ornament collector; but one of the things I enjoy most about decorating the tree is looking at ornaments from years past, as well as those we have purchased since the previous Christmas. And this will be the subject of my next post.


  1. Great post dad! I can't wait to see the Christmas tree tomorrow! (And you guys of course ;) )

  2. LOL "And on the seventh day, I rested. But behold, I beheld the tree and it was good."