As a kid, Christmas officially began on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Boxes and crates were dragged from the basement, and the red and green takeover began. It was great fun to embarrass my brother over his ‘pouty angel’ homemade ornament each year. And just maybe my mom would trust me enough to help with the invaluable nativity set that her mother painted. But I believe that my most favorite memories involved our Christmas tree each year.
You see, my parents were proud ‘real tree’ snobs. We picked out a fresh tree every year, looking down on those who pulled one out of a box each year. For a while, we would purchase one from the Kroger parking lot. But that was a little bit like tree roulette. You never really knew what that tree would look like when you cut the netting off from around it.
At some point, we upped our game and set off for a Christmas tree farm to cut our own tree. As a kid, this process was fun from the start. Mainly because we got to pull out all the winter garb- gloves, scarves, hats, ear warmers.
Once we were all bundled up, the five of us piled into the minivan and headed to a local tree farm. Tree analysis began immediately. My mom was always the most concerned with the look of it. Were there too may holes? And if there were, could we at least situate them in the back when we stood it up? She checked for fullness and freshness in the branches, to make sure it would last us all season.
After we narrowed it down to our favorites, planting a family member by each favorite so we didn’t lose it, we started the process of elimination.
My dad always looked to make sure the trunk was relatively straight, that we wouldn’t have a Grinch style tree when we went to put it in the stand. My brother who was a McGuvyer-in-the-making was already scheming up a way to rig up that one tree that needed some structural work. My youngest brother was just bored by this point.
Once THE one was selected, we all took a turn with the saw, so we could legit say that the tree felling was a family effort. But let’s be honest, my dad did the bulk of the work.
One particularly memorable year, we had crossed the bridge over into Indiana to find a tree farm. My mom and dad couldn’t quite agreed on how to tie the tree to the top of the van to get it home. One thought it was fully secured, and the other wasn’t quite so sure. I’m not gonna lie, it got a little tense. It happens.
We crossed the bridge back into Kentucky when the ropes started to slack, right around the YUM Center in downtown Louisville. I’m not sure how it happened, because I distinctly remember that my dad hadn’t driven over 40 mph- on the interstate. But somehow the tree came off as we pulled off the road, landing in the emergency lane. If you thought tension was high at the tree farm…
But it all worked out just fine. No one was hurt, and the tree made it home. W enjoyed a fun filled evening decorating the tree and sipping hot cocoa.
Another year, we got home to discover that we had misjudged the straightness of the trunk. This tree would only stand upright with the help of some string and a wall anchor. And this rig worked great….for a while.
I was awakened from sleep one night to an odd sound in my basement bed room. It was a slow, dripping noise. As I got up to check it out, I found a puddle of water near my bed. But there was no plumbing above my room. As I shook off sleep, I realized that the tree was directly above me in the living room. I bolted upstairs to find it toppled over and water everywhere.
But not just water. Soda water. In order to make the tree last all season, you pour a 2-liter of Mountain Dew in the water when you first set it up. Keeps it nice and sugary. Which is great for the tree, but not for my bedroom that was now covered in sticky soda water.
But let’s fast forward a few years. Now that I’m married with a family, I’ve had to relinquish my tree snob status due to my kids’ allergies. I drag a tree up from the basement each year, carefully hanging pine scented ornaments on it to give the allusion of a real tree.
But I still get the warm fuzzies. Just this past weekend, we decked out our house. Hallie DJ’d her favorite Christmas music. Brandon and Ava used their height to circle the lights around the tree. And I got to proudly do for my family what my mother did for ours. Hand out the individual ornaments, reminding everyone of the memories associated with them. Some memories from before my time with them and some from the past six years….each one bringing me closer to my sweet family.
And each year, after the mess is somewhat contained, I take a moment to myself. I turn off the lamps and sit in the quiet of the tree light. As I contemplate Christmas and all that my precious Savior came to bring, I hear the giggles of two girls getting ready for bed. And I’m reminded of how much I’ve been blessed with. Even while basking in the glow of a fake tree.