Saturday, December 01, 2007

Oh Christmas Tree!

When I was growing up we always had a real Christmas tree, never an artificial one. It wasn't until I went away to college and my dad died that my mom got an artificial tree.

Some families have tree decorating parties, others have a tradition of going out to a tree farm and cutting down a fresh tree. We didn't do anything like that. A week or so before Christmas my dad and I would head over to a local nursery (Franks) where we would pick out a tree to bring home. It was always a scotch pine with long needles, never any other kind. When we got it home my dad would stand the tree up leaning against the back of the garage for a day or two. Then he would bring it in the house and stand it up in a Christmas tree stand he made himself (out of concrete). We always had to wait another 24 hours before we could decorate it. This was because the branches needed to "open up and relax" as my mom used to say.

I can still remember the wonderful pine scent that filled our house. We lived in a little bungalow, and I mean little. The main floor consisted of the kitchen, living room, a bathroom, and two bedrooms. There was also one bedroom upstairs and an unfinished basement. That's it. No dining room, no family room. The Christmas tree was always put in the same place, in the corner of the living room next to the picture window. There really weren't a lot of other possible locations.

Here's a picture of me, Christmas 1961. This was a typical Christmas tree,
in the corner of the living room by the picture window.

I loved the fresh pine scent from that tree! It would always heighten my anticipatory excitement. Back in the old days of my childhood, the Christmas season didn't begin until Santa Claus came to town in the J. L. Hudson Thanksgiving Day Parade in Detroit (which my mom and I always watched on TV). For our family, the holy season of Advent was also a marker of the upcoming holiday. But Christmas didn't feel imminent until the Christmas tree was up and decorated. When I was very young my mom and older brothers did the decorating. From about the time I was six or seven years old on, I was in charge of decorating the tree. And I loved it!

I also remember the Christmas tree at my Aunt Renee and Uncle Ed's house. This was back in the 1960s and they had one of those silver "aluminum" trees with the rotating red, blue, yellow, and green lights that shone upon it. I can remember sitting in their living room and gazing at that tree for what seemed like forever. It was mesmerizing, pretty in its own way.

When I got older and had a family of my own we always had an artificial tree except for one year when we bought a fresh tree. I really liked the fresh tree the one year we had it but money was almost always tight and it didn't cost anything to put up the artificial tree. So that's what we usually did. If I'm remembering correctly, my mom bought me the first artificial tree the first year I was married. I got a lot of use out of that tree. Eventually it was replaced with another artificial tree and then another. Every once in a while I think about getting a fresh tree for a change but I never do. I'd have to wait until the week before Christmas to put it up and then I'd have such a short time to enjoy it. I perfer to put my tree up on Thanksgiving weekend or the weekend after so I can enjoy it longer :-)

[The Advent calendar number graphic used in this post was created by NicNic at the NBK blog.]