CHEW­ING THE FAT

IN THE DAYS OF MY YOUTH, THE CHRIST­MAS TREE WAS, IN OUR FAM­ILY, A TREE—NOT CHI­NESE PLAS­TIC AND WIRE, BUT A REAL TREE.

Gun World - - Contents -

From back when I was just a cute lit­tle kid, I have many fond mem­o­ries of Christ­mas. Christ­mas to a kid was mostly about “stuff,” as it is with kids to­day.

Back then, my broth­ers and I would search ev­ery in­ter­est­ing page of the Christ­mas edi­tion of the Sears Wish Book cat­a­log, look­ing at page af­ter page of toys—and es­pe­cially scru­ti­niz­ing the pages of guns. We would skip all the pages fea­tur­ing clothes and other such use­less items but would study ev­ery de­tail of the toy and gun sec­tions, cir­cling items and dog-ear­ring page cor­ners for fu­ture ref­er­ence. “Stuff” was im­por­tant to us, but it was not the main fo­cus of our hol­i­day ex­pe­ri­ence.

CHRIST­MAS, THEN AND NOW

Christ­mas meant many things to us then, as it does now. Of course, we knew all about the birth of Christ and the de­tails of why He was born. But in ad­di­tion to all that, Christ­mas meant that we would see fam­ily we only saw at that spe­cial time of year. My dad had no broth­ers, but he had nine older sis­ters, and my mom also had sev­eral sib­lings, so we had a wealth of cousins. See­ing them at Christ­mas made the hol­i­day spe­cial.

It seems that these days, Christ­mas is about ev­ery­thing ex­cept fam­ily. It is about folks scur­ry­ing around, fight­ing crowds, buy­ing stuff that no one needs to give to peo­ple whom no one likes. Christ­mas has be­come a dreaded hol­i­day for many, and it is dragged out over a pe­riod of sev­eral weeks just to in­ten­sify the tor­ture they create for them­selves. It ain’t sup­posed to be that way.

THE TREE

The Christ­mas tree is the fo­cal point in hol­i­day dec­o­ra­tions for the sea­son. While light­ing up the house and yard like a Las Ve­gas casino is op­tional, the Christ­mas tree is a re­quired piece of hol­i­day dé­cor. It is the cen­ter of ac­tiv­i­ties on Christ­mas morn­ing, and it seems that more and more peo­ple put up the tree a bit ear­lier each year.

In the days of my youth, the Christ­mas tree was, in our fam­ily, a tree—not Chi­nese plas­tic and wire, but a real tree. While some city kids went down to a tree lot in town and bought a pine or spruce to carry home, ev­ery­one I knew went out into the woods and cut an Eastern Red cedar. Killing your own tree was a tra­di­tion in our fam­ily. Dad and we boys would ride back into the woods on the farm, usu­ally with us stand­ing on the hitch of the old Far­mall trac­tor, un­til we got to a thicket of cedar.

Se­lect­ing just the right tree was the sub­ject of care­ful study and in­tense de­bate. It had to be the cor­rect height to fit in the house, but it also had to be at least some­what sym­met­ri­cal and well filled out.

Af­ter the proper tree was se­lected, it would be sawed off at the base and strapped atop the old trac­tor. Head­ing back to the house with four kids hang­ing on and try­ing to see around the huge tree block­ing his vi­sion, Dad would man­age to get the tree de­liv­ered and erected on its base, leav­ing the dec­o­rat­ing to Mom and us kids.

POP­PING CORN

Af­ter the tree was up and semi-straight, Mom would start a big pot of corn pop­ping on the stove. We kids sat by wait­ing, nee­dles and thread in hand, ready to create long strings of pop­corn to wrap around the tree while Dad tried to get the strings of col­or­ful lights to work. Af­ter the tree was dec­o­rated, we would all stand back and ad­mire it, tak­ing in the glow of the lights as the won­der­ful aroma of freshly cut cedar filled the air.

Sadly, most kids to­day do not get to ex­pe­ri­ence such tra­di­tions. These days, the “trees” are plas­tic, have only the fra­grance of plas­tic and are as­sem­bled from the con­tents of a card­board box that is shipped in from places where most peo­ple do not even know the mean­ing of Christ­mas.

In my fam­ily, there are two of us left who de­test plas­tic trees. Be­sides me, there is my sweet cousin Deb­bie. Deb­bie is a dou­ble-first cousin. Her dad was my mother’s brother, and her mother was my fa­ther’s sis­ter. We are close, both by blood and by our love of keep­ing Christ­mas real. If ever there were a per­son who loved Christ­mas more than Deb­bie, we have never met.

She lives in a huge log home back in the woods, and dur­ing the Christ­mas sea­son, it is dec­o­rated el­e­gantly and beau­ti­fully. The cen­ter­piece of her dec­o­ra­tions is al­ways a huge cedar tree, reach­ing the height of the open, two-story liv­ing room. Open­ing the door to her home, one is im­me­di­ately sur­rounded by that won­der­ful cedar smell, putting even the most cyn­i­cal Scrooge in the spirit of the sea­son.

Here, at my house, about a week be­fore Christ­mas, I load the grand­kids onto the Rhino. We travel back into the woods, search­ing for just the right tree to har­vest and take back home.

I let the kids do the choos­ing, and if they se­lect a tree that is a bit thin or scrag­gly, that’s okay. It will still fill the home with a won­der­ful aroma, our minds with mem­o­ries of our youth and our hearts with love. GW

IT SEEMS THAT THESE

DAYS, CHRIST­MAS

IS ABOUT EV­ERY­THING

EX­CEPT FAM­ILY ...

IT AIN’T SUP­POSED TO BE THAT WAY.

I

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