Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Dec. 20, 2001

Oh, Christmas tree

It's Dec. 16 and we don't have our Christmas tree yet. This would have bothered me when Art and I first got married. The tradition in my family was to get a tree by at least the second weekend in December. Since I lived on a farm outside a small town, we didn't have a lot of options for trees; we either got a small one from one of the local stores or we cut a cedar from our pasture. I suppose those trees were the "Charlie Brown" kind - not particularly attractive - but I loved them anyway, strung with all those bubble lights, glass balls and tinsel.

The tradition in Art's family was to wait until around Dec. 24. His Grandfather Herrmann sold Christmas trees, and the family always sold the best ones first, waiting until the last minute to get their own. Art would often decorate his grandparents' Christmas tree as well as his own family's, meticulously winding lights throughout the branches so as to have them as symmetrical as possible.

We MIGHT have our tree by the time this column is published. It all depends on how it fits into the schedule of holiday activities. We both have to-do lists, but whereas I tend to work on three or four projects at a time, Art is more focused, concentrating on one thing, finishing it and only then moving on to the next.

The Christmas tree will be a major project - no hopping in the car and going to a lot where the trees are already cut. Nope - we'll be heading over to Gallaher Tree Farm and spending what seems like hours selecting a perfect - and very large - tree. It won't matter what the weather is like the day we choose the tree. One year, we slogged through row after row of damp trees; another, we froze our little tu-tus off and had to leave the tree in the garage for a day so it would thaw out. The girls and I usually end up in the Gallaher barn drinking hot chocolate or hot cider while we wait for Art to make the final selection.

Art doesn't want any puny tree to grace our home. It has to reach to the 8-foot ceiling and extend from the wall on the west to the hutch on the east, making it difficult - and sometimes impossible - to pass from the living area to the dining area.

And how do we get the tree from the tree farm to the house? That's a project itself. We usually tie the tree to the top of Art's old car. In earlier years, the tree rode on the roof of the 1971 Buick LeSabre, and more recently, it's been on the 1979 Oldsmobile Delta 88. Once the tree is tied to the roof of the car with ropes extending from one side to the other through partially open windows, Art slowly winds his way to our home in Keats.

The next step is to get the tree inside the house. First, Art and I have to tug and pull it from the front of the house to the back, which isn't too difficult. Then, we have to maneuver it up the deck steps, usually with me mumbling under my breath by this time. Then Art determines whether it needs to be cut off a tad at the bottom because "gee, it sure looked smaller out there in the field than it does lying here."

Once we know it will fit inside the house, we shove it through the patio doors (more mumbling by me as needles fly everywhere.) Then, I, the weakling, attempt to hold the tree steady in the middle of the room while Art surveys it from all sides to determine if it needs to have branches cut or added. Art has gone so far as to drill holes in the trunk of the tree to add extra greenery if it's not quite symmetrical enough. He is an engineer, after all.

After more maneuvering, we get the tree in the stand. We walk around it, saying, "yes, this is the best Christmas tree so far."

And then we begin decorating it.

Selecting the perfect tree, left, and after the gifts are open, right.

2001 Index