Those who favor Christmas trees have had them up for quite some time, unless of course you’re from the type of home that Bob and Juanita Gallagher used to shelter themselves and their dozen offspring. Denny, one of the 12, told me their tree wasn’t erected and decorated until Christmas Eve.
Certainly, Christmas trees have always drawn great interest, especially from children, as they focus much of their attention on the gaily wrapped packages beneath the branches. The festive trees of the season, including one my kids once upon a holiday time found fascinating, The Talking Tree at Lazarus, over time, have told their stories and left their images etched in our minds.
Now, as a child, while I was certainly allowed to admire the tree, I really wasn’t allowed a major role in the decorating part. Unlike the meticulous efforts of my older sister Joan, ever the rule follower — who hung as directed tinsel in single strands on various boughs — I was a tinsel tosser as well as a spatially challenged ornament hanger, which consigned me to the back row when it came time to look for decorators.
Of all the Christmas trees that I can recall, two I remember most vividly, neither because of their beauty nor the bounty of treasures that lay beneath the boughs but because of their issues with stability.
It was my father who generally took it upon himself to bring the tree into our small Latham Avenue ranch after untying it from the roof of his Central, Steel and Wire company car. One year, with judgment that just may have been a tad impaired by a stop at the Elks or the Last Chance Café for some holiday cheer with his buds, he produced a piney offering for our front room — we were front-room types, not living roomers — back in a time when no one I knew even would consider the thought of a fake tree.
While the tree certainly as I recall had its strengths, with one being its absence of any wide open spaces between the boughs, there was one pretty significant issue. It was so crooked at its base that without added help, once screwed into the red-and-green tree stand, it would fall over. So, it had to be tied with the drawstring from the picture-window drapes to stand two weeks’ worth of yuletide times. As I recall, in case you’re wondering, there was absolutely no talk of taking the tree back. Once a tree came into the house, it stayed until such time that the Christmas carcass was dragged to the curb on Jan. 2.
The other tree I remember actually came when I was back from my collegiate academic wars in Oxford at Miami University back in a time when we were Redskins, not Red Hawks. Of course, back then, since legal consumption age was 18 for the 3.2 elixir of my youth, I was able to enjoy my own libationary beverages with Dad at one of the holiday parties he loved to host.
At this particular party, a tree-trimming one, it was time to erect the tree that had been brought home. Now, when it first made its appearance in the house, unlike the tree that had to be tied with the drapes cord, those of us who’d been through that experience immediately took notice of the straight trunk. However, we also noted that this one had a trunk that was deemed way too long.
So, I was commissioned to find a helper and take the tree out to the carport to saw a portion of the trunk off. I grabbed Larry Theole, and out we went to do the sawing.
Once we returned with the tree and tried to fit it in the base, apparently, we’d forgotten the handyman’s adage that it’s always wise to measure twice and cut once. The reason I say this is once we got the tree back in the house and tried to affix it to the inside of the stand, we realized it wouldn’t reach the bottom without the lower branches stopping us. So, rather than cutting the beautiful bottom branches, it was time for Larry and me to return to the carport with the tree, saw in half the part we removed and reaffix half of what was removed.
Here’s hoping your tree this year has stood erect, unfettered and unaltered. In just a few short days, it will be the gathering place for joy and love, just as it has been since long before there were Polaroid black-and-white photos and 8 mm silent home movies.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.