Pining for a PROPER TREE
When her grandson longed for a Christmas tree that reached the ceiling, JACKIE FRENCH embarked on a search that took her back to her childhood
The first Christmas tree I remember was purloined by my mother. It was a straggly casuarina, growing by the side of the road. We put my brother in his pram and wheeled him up the road, then Mum took out her trusty bread knife and we took turns sawing through the tree trunk. My baby brother and the tree shared the pram on the way home.
I vaguely think we did much the same for many years. Christmas trees weren’t easy to buy back then, nor did we have much money, and I had never even heard of an artificial tree.
Year after year we looked for an inconspicuous casuarina that wouldn’t be missed – or at least could be chopped down with no-one noticing. Then I married into a family who regarded a gum tree as the only possible Christmas tree, and chose the sacrificial victim on their farm months ahead, pruning it to make sure it was perfect before chopping it down on Christmas Eve.
When I finally had a home of my own we used gum tree branches tied together to make a leafy tree. But every year my son would demand a ‘proper’ tree. The only ‘proper’ tree, of course, was Pinus radiata, sold on footpaths across Australia in the fortnight before Christmas.
We compromised. I bought potted pines of various kinds – none of them radiata, which I don’t really like. But none of them touched the ceiling, which was what he longed for.
Then came the years when our kids were Christmasing around the world, or at their