Hallmark Christmas cards and movies suggest that choosing and cutting down the family Christmas tree is a warm fuzzy family experience to be cherished for years. Ours was unforgettable, but for different reasons. We did not sit around sipping hot chocolate and nibbling shortbread cookies sharing memories of Christmases past. The “Annual Christmas Tree War” was more suitable.
A typical “Let’s get the Christmas Tree” event went something like this: On a sunny Saturday morning, Dad, already short in the patience department, would take Francis and me, confirmed hooligans, to Canada Hill to cut a truckload of balsam fir trees ― NO pine trees or spruce trees at our house. Hopefully, one tree would meet with Mom’s approval.
Trees standing outside appear the right height because the sky is about ten miles away. Once we got them home and inside, the trees were much taller than our 7-foot ceilings. The tension began to mount.
Mom and Dad disagreed about the requirements of a good tree. Mom liked a full tree with branches tight together. Dad, on the other hand, preferred a “sparse” tree with branches well-spaced. The tension grew a bit more. Dad marched Tree One, Tree Two, Tree Three, Tree Four and Tree Five in the house for Mom’s approval. Would you believe there was something wrong with all five trees? Voices were raised. Goodwill toward men and peace on earth did not visit our house that day.
Tempers flared and a lot of “unchristmas-like” words were uttered. Dad refused to return to Canada Hill so a compromise had to be hammered, drilled and sawed out. Each tree seemed
almost perfect. Unfortunately a branch was missing in the most important place. The tension mounted. Dad cut a branch from an unsuitable tree, drilled a hole in the good tree and inserted the new branch. We had the perfect tree. Problem solved. Tension took a back seat for a moment.
Getting the tree to stand up straight was the next challenge. Remember those impossible Christmas tree stands? Sooner or later, the tree stand would be flung out the door. Dad nailed the tree to a couple of boards, wrapped some green twine around the trunk and nailed it to the ceiling and walls. That tree could not fall down if it stood there for a hundred years.
Next, the decorating began. Mom believed our brother, Edsel, was the only one who could put the lights on our tree. Once he had strung the lights, Francis and I could add the ornaments, the silver garland or rope, and finally the icicles.
Icicles? Remember those things? They were charged with static electricity and stuck to everything except the tree. They were attracted to the seat of your pants. The icicles were supposed to fill the bare spots.
Mom hung 3 or 4 boxes of them on our tree, but for some West Head families, it was an annual competition. Who could put the most icicles on their tree? 20, 25, 30 boxes? That is a lot of icicles. The tree was not visible to the naked eye. It looked like a creepy creature hiding in the corner waiting to pounce. Was there an actual tree under there? One tree was said to look like Cousin ITT from the Addams Family.
Good tree – bad tree, pretty tree – ugly tree, short tree – tall tree, fir tree – spruce tree, stately tree- Charlie Brown tree; all trees become insignificant in a week or two.
Come New Year’s, the trees meet the same fate. The beautiful decorations are removed and packed away for another year.
The once adorned Christmas trees that garnered praise and admiration lay bare at the foot of driveways awaiting the roar of the wood chippers.
Sounds cruel, but it is good news!
The trees will rise again as mulch for next summer’s gardens.
Is there a life lesson hidden within?