Getting the Christmas tree is a big deal at my house. I want it to be full and no less than seven feet tall. Not 20′ tall. Just seven.
This starts way back in my childhood. Two weeks before Christmas we’d load into the station wagon (Mum, Dad, my sister Melissa, myself) and drive from our home in Veazie to my Great Grampa John and Grammy Rita’s house in Lincoln. We crossed the big driveway, over the frozen garden and down an old logging road into the dense woods. And then we looked up. Way up. Our Christmas trees were not six or seven footers growing in nicely spaced rows, pruned and beautifully shaped. We looked up a good 20′. It’s not that we wanted a 20′ tall Christmas tree but that we wanted the pretty top of the tree.
Dad started up the chainsaw, we stood back and Dad dropped the tree. Yeah! There it was, our Christmas tree. But it wasn’t. What looks nice from the ground is full of empty spots, brown sprills you can’t see way up there, and now that it’s fallen so far and crashed to the ground, broken branches. Mum vetoed the first tree most years. We walked down the road, further into the woods, looking way up over our heads, until we spotted a really nice top of another towering tree. Chainsaw, crash, nope, not that one. After the third tree hit the ground the first or second tree started looking better.
Dad cut branches from the second and third, first and third, first and second…whatever the combination was that year, and we lugged them out of the woods. Dad dragged the chosen tree behind him. Great Grammy Rita always made a big lunch for us. We had meat, vegetables and boiled potatoes from the garden, bread, butter and something to drink. Grammy made the world’s BEST donuts and served them to us still warm from the pot of lard she’d used to cook them. I’m a little teary now thinking back all those years. Grammy Rita’s lunches and donuts are among my favorite childhood memories.
Dad put the tree and branches into the back of the station wagon. I usually got to sit in back with the tree. Seat belts were something we shoved between the seat and back, out of the way, back then. At home, Dad brought the tree into the house, put it into the stand and waited for Mum’s assessment. “It has a hole right there,” she’d say. Dad fired up the drill, made a hole in the trunk and…I kid you not…shoved a branch in. Hole filled.
“What you think,” he’d ask. Mum would point out another empty spot. Dad whittled the end of a branch, drilled another hole and filled the gap. This went on until Mum was happy with the tree.
Most of the decorations on our trees were homemade. One was Great Nana Tressa’s. She died six months before I was born so having one of her ornaments is very special. My grandmother, Grace (Woods, I grew up in Veazie.), made ornaments for us each year. We made ornaments in school and Mum made some too. We covered the tree with garland and ornaments, then carefully and not at all carefully draped tinsel on the tree. When we were finished we had proof that no matter how many branches you shove into a Charlie Brown tree, no matter how many ornaments you put on, or how much tinsel you use, a Charlie Brown tree is still a Charlie Brown tree. And they were always beautiful.