Thursday, December 4, 2014

Oh, Christmas Tree

     The Christmas trees I remember from my childhood are the ones my brothers would poach from the edge of the city dump after dark. Those illicit firs were irregular and fragrant and almost too big for our living room. We decorated them with colored lights, translucent glow-in-the-dark icicles, blown glass ornaments and dangling strands of silver tinsel. Years later my parents bought an artificial Scots Pine that could be taken apart and stored in the attic. It was a perfectly symmetrical pyramid of green plastic toilet bowl brushes screwed into a painted green pole. My father would lay fir boughs in front of the heating vents to scent the house with something more authentic.

     Our first year married, we bought a four-foot live Scots Pine at a local nursery for our Los Angeles apartment. It cost us a whopping eight dollars. It came dear because my husband was in graduate school and eight dollars was a third of our weekly grocery budget. We decorated it with ornaments from a ninety-year-old friend of the family who stopped putting up a tree after his wife died, and one ornament of our own: a little wooden train engine we bought in Carmel-by-the-Sea on our honeymoon.

     After we moved to the Pacific Northwest and started a family, we usually drove out to Christmas tree farms that lay at the foot of the Cascade Mountains to find our tree. Seven-foot Douglas Firs were the favorite, and we cut down our own for about twelve dollars. My dear husband would lead the girls and I up and down the aisles of sheared firs for what felt like hours, in search of a flawless specimen. Afterward, as we sat on the tailgate of our old yellow pickup truck with our hands thawing around steaming mugs of hot chocolate piled high with whipped cream, we soon forgot about the cold and the hike to the top of the mountain for that perfect tree daddy never found.

     Shopping for a tree in the Midwest came as something of a shock. We promised the girls that when we moved away from the Evergreen State, we would continue to buy a live tree. However, twelve-dollar trees were a thing of the past. Once, when we went looking for the tree farms rumored to be out west of the suburbs, we ended up buying a Fraser fir in an overpriced tree lot and nearly had to sell our shoes to pay for it. The following year, determined to find an affordable fir, we ended up in the Pepper's Bedroom City parking lot a little dispirited and disgruntled at the lack of ambience. But from then on, we were hooked on Fraser firs. Fortunately, we could find them at the hardware store for a reasonable price, and our kids never had to go barefoot in winter.

     The girls are grown now, and our oldest has a family of her own, but we still get a live tree. My husband is allergic to the mold and has to wear a particle mask to string the lights, but we can’t bear to buy an artificial one. I put the ornaments on, but the tree itself is so lovely that I would be happy to decorate it with just the lights. With the lamps turned down low in the sitting room of our home, I can imagine that I am stopping by the woods on a snowy evening to watch them fill up with snow. I can imagine that stars have fallen gently out of the sky like snowflakes to rest in the branches of my tree.

     Of all the deckings and fa la la's of the season, I believe our Christmas tree is the one trimming I would be hard pressed to go without.


  1. 'It was a perfectly symmetrical pyramid of green plastic toilet bowl brushes screwed into a painted green pole.' it's almost midnight or I would have laughed out loud!!'

    Enjoyed this. thank-you. Your tree is gorgeous!

  2. Your tree is lovely, simple and seasonal, and I too enjoyed the evocative green toilet brushes description.

  3. So lovely and so simple. I'm partial to Nobles but haven't had one for a couple years.