Long before the artificial tree became popular, our family always had a real tree with all the wonderful pine smells and the after mess of dropped needles. As a child, I remember Mom sending my brother and me out with my father to purchase the tree each year. Looking back, it probably saved the stress of fighting over which tree to purchase and gave her some time to wrap gifts or do all those things a mom has to get done before Christmas.
We would walk through the lot, grab a tree that was leaning on a pile of others, shake it to see if the needles held on and then slowly turn it around to make sure it was full. I think my dad prided himself on choosing the best each year. We'd strap the tree to the top of the car and excitedly deliver it to the side porch at home until we were ready to bring it in to decorate.
The year we decided to spend Christmas at my parent's second home at Put-In-Bay, Ohio, was especially memorable. We loved the island and couldn't wait to spend the holiday there. The trouble was, there were no Christmas tree lots. They did things the old fashioned way; they went out into the woods and cut a tree. This time there was no need for us to shake the tree, although I suspect out of habit my dad did anyway. We used a saw to cut our tree. Then we fastened it to the old car Dad kept on the island for transportation.
When we got it home, we discovered the difference between trees straight from the woods and trees that were groomed all year for Christmas. There was a whole section of the tree missing! Mom decided the best thing was for Dad to stick it in a corner of the living room and hide the bare spot as best he could by tucking it between the two walls. Still upset by not having a perfect tree, my dad trimmed a few branches off the bottom and wired them to fill in the bare spot before he tucked it into the corner.
Needless to say, the cut branches wilted faster than the rest of the tree and the needles dropped all over our Christmas packages. It didn't bother my brother or me much at all. We swept aside the needles and dove in on Christmas morning. But every time I see the movie The Christmas Story where the father is so bent on the perfect turkey, I think about my dad and his need for the perfect tree.
Eventually as they got older and my brother and I started our own families, Mom and Dad gave in to the artificial tree. It certainly saved having to clean out the vacuum sweeper's hose each year. While we joked about it, they did draw the line at getting an aluminum one with the rotating colored light.
What's your vote? Artificial or real, needle-dropping, sappy but wonderfully smelling Christmas trees?