I had decided that we wouldn’t get a tree this year. I had lots of good excuses, I mean reasons. It’s late; it’s too much work; then we have to take it down. Yesterday, I pitched this idea to my grown son who is home for the holidays and he said, “No Christmas tree! But we have to have a tree, Mom.”
So this morning I went to Home Depot to buy a Christmas tree with my son. As I stood there listening to “Jingle Bell Rock” and “White Christmas” while Cody and I browsed the tree lot, I was reminded of the trips during my childhood to get a Christmas tree with my father in Abbeville, Alabama. Instead of going to a Christmas tree lot, my sister, Sheila, and I piled into my great-grandfather’s red Ford pick-up with our father and headed out to the wooded land owned by our family. They grew and harvested trees, so there were lots of possibilities. We girls were all bundled up in warm winter coats, gloves, and fuzzy hats and giggled and laughed excitedly the whole way. This was an adventure. We always started off down a dirt road, but then my father would take off in whatever direction seemed promising, looking for the best tree. Once we reached a promising clearing we all scrambled out of the truck cab and walked around in the cold, icy air, on the hunt for the “perfect” tree.
“What about this one, Daddy?” Sheila might say. “It looks good.”
“Umm. It’s nice, but it’s not quite big enough. Keep looking, “ he would answer.
“I like this one, Daddy. It needs a home. It’s so little and scrawny,” I usually said, always rooting for the underdog, even when it came to trees.
After several of these exchanges, my father would finally agree with one of us. I think he enjoyed the hunt as much as we did and would drag it out as long as possible.
“Yes. Yes. You’re right. Good job. This is the one. I knew we would find the best one if we just kept looking.”
Then he would get out an axe from the bed of the pick-up and tell us to stand back. Then he would proceed to chop the tree down. “Whack, whack, whack.” He chopped until it fell, yelling for us to get out of the way. Once it fell we all dragged it to the truck, and my father tossed it into the back. Next we picked piles of red-berried holly that grew wild in the area and placed it around the tree. To this day, a glimpse of deep green, thorn-encrusted leaves with bright red berries, floods me with warm emotions. It reminds me of those trips with my father and sister, the smell of the forest, the cold, crisp air, the sense of being on an important mission. Most of all I loved being with my father and sister, sharing the adventure together.
Many tasks are easier these days. We shop at malls and buy trees from home improvement stores. The guys at the store get a chain saw out and cut the bottom limbs off the Christmas tree and tie it to the top of your car. Bim, bam. It’s done. It takes very little time or work. It’s not an adventure. Now I live in California, far from Alabama. It isn’t particularly cold here. I don’t need a warm coat or gloves. The air is not cold and crisp. But I still get to experience the best part of the Christmas tree expedition, sharing this all with my son. And in the end, that really is the best part.
Causes Patricia Thomas Supports
Room to Read, UNICEF, Kiva, Save the Children, Pencils of Promise