Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Starting New Traditions. Finally! A Live Tree!

The first Christmas tree I can remember is the five or six foot artificial one my dad pulled out of the attic space in the garage every year. He kept it stored in a big box and setting it up took hours. The fake trunk had to be bolted into a metal base and every individual branch was color coded to fit into a specific slot on the posts that locked together in two or three different places.

Back then, in the '80s, there was no such thing as a pre-lit tree, as far as I know. After we got the tree put together, my dad spent another dozen hours griping and growling and cussing out the light string, unscrewing every single bulb one at a time and trying to figure out which one was burnt out to replace so that the whole thing would finally work. It was an event that I remember him tackling solo.

My brothers and me, long, long ago. Keith on the left, Mike on the right.
A couple years after my mom died, when my dad remarried, the tradition of the Christmas tree in our house changed greatly. My stepmother much preferred live trees. So for the next seven to eight years of my life, from 1990 to 1998, I remember us driving out to Galehouse Tree Farm to pick out a pre-cut tree. I don't remember ever hiking out to pick our own and cut it down. What I recall is my stepmother investigating every already cut tree available until she found the one with the perfect fullness that she liked. 

Every single year, she picked one out that was much too big to even fit in our living room. I'm sure we tried to talk her down to something shorter, but she wouldn't have it. The fullness and roundness was perfect, so we'd have them bind it and tote it home. My dad spent hours on the porch sawing off the extra three feet from the bottom just so it would stand up in our living room and not be bent at the top. Then we smothered it in boxes upon boxes of ornaments.

After my dad died, I don't recall much in the way of Christmas trees. I moved out of my stepmother's house, and even without him she still managed to get a too big tree into the front living room. I don't remember much of that Christmas. Nor much of the ones that followed. My brother had a fake tree he put up when I lived with him briefly, but I don't recall being much involved. 

Working retail crushed my Christmas spirit quite a lot. When I met my husband in 2002 I don't recall enjoying the season. We got married in 2003, and I'm sure we put up a tree in our first apartment. It started off small, and I'm sure it was a gift from a relative. Something prelit and fake just to have a tree. I bought a couple of boxes of bulbs and did it up in blue and silver. We had to replace that tree for a slightly bigger one at some point. They don't build the fake ones to be durable the way they used to be, like the one my dad fought with every year for the first eight to nine years of my life, and probably some time before I was even born.

Our girls have had to suffer fake trees in the early years of their lives. We started in one apartment, then a townhouse, and couldn't really afford a live tree until this year. For all the bad I might have suffered, those trips out to Galehouse Tree Farm every year is a fond one I wanted to carry forward. So this year, now that we're in a better financial position than we used to be, we took the 30 minute drive trip out to Doylestown to rekindle a tradition I enjoyed and bring it to our own family.

It may look dark and dreary from the outside, but inside that barn is a world of festive color and holiday joy. Of course, I remember the interior being much bigger when I was a kid. That memory had me relating to my own daughters and realizing just how magical it must be to them. Never mind how many times I had to tell them not to touch something because it was fragile. Some things were still pretty kid friendly.

My experiences with my stepmother taught me not to go too overboard and look for a tree that would actually fit in our living room. So we spent the extra energy and took the time to hike to the top of the hill and look for one that would last, smell nice, and look nice. It cost a little less to cut your own tree, so that was an added bonus.

Our little Usurper is a trooper. She didn't complain about the hike one bit. Never asked to be picked up. She doesn't like to be carried and much prefers to walk anywhere we go. For that I am super grateful because I am not a strong person and don't like being a vehicle for my children. Their independence pleases me greatly. 

So we found our tree, cut it down, toted it back down the hill to have it shaken and bound. We shoved it in our car, tied it between the seats, and drove it home. Then the most adorable thing happened. My husband had bought the tree stand the day before and explained to our girls what it was for. To keep them from turning it into a toy, he put it in the office at the back of the house. As soon as we got home, the Usurper ran to the office, picked up the stand, and well... This:

I'm constantly surprised by how much my littlest nerdling understands and remembers. She might not say much, and getting her to give up her pacifier completely is still a struggle at 2 1/2 years of age, but she's one smart cookie. This time last year I wouldn't have dared to bring home a live tree and set it up where she could reach all the ornaments, but she knows now not to touch and that's good. 

She was very happy about our new tree. I almost feel like it was the best Christmas present she could have ever asked for! And she didn't even ask for one! She was so happy that she spent a good ten minutes or so smothering her daddy in hugs.

I tried for another video, but apparently it's too big for blogger.
We got the tree up without any hassle. The girls even helped hold it steady while we screwed it secure to the base. Amusingly, the trunk was almost too small! We got it to work, though, and then the decorating happened.

When it was all said and done, our girls were so happy that the Overlord even made up a song about it. I think it's safe to say that they love our tree this year. I give myself an A+ for creating memories my girls will hopefully remember for all time, and a tradition that we'll continue with from here on out. And I... Well. I'm surprised by how happy this one simple little thing made me. It's been 17 or 18 years since I last had a live tree in a house I called my own. This gives me so much joy... I can't even.

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