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.
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 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.
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
IS ABOUT EVERYTHING
EXCEPT FAMILY ...
IT AIN’T SUPPOSED TO BE THAT WAY.