Backroads: Going to Get the Christmas Tree

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Mike & Levi bringing home the Christmas tree. Photo: Lynn Coffey.

One of America’s oldest holiday traditions originated in Germany by the great reformer, Martin Luther. It is said that one Christmas Eve, Luther was walking through the forest and was so taken by the beauty of the stars shining through the trees that he brought one home and put candles on it to symbolize that starry night in Bethlehem.  

The photo of our neighbors, Mike and Levi Coffey bringing home their Christmas tree, evoked memories of my own when as a young girl my father and I set out to find our own perfect tree.

There was a wood behind our house where we scouted out possible prospects a few weeks in advance.  Our family tradition was to bring the tree in and decorate it on Christmas Eve. For us, that special night held the magic of the holiday.  

Of course, the trees growing ‘au natural’ never measured up to the expensive ones in the tree lots around town. There was always a bare spot somewhere but if it had three good sides, the offending spot was turned to the wall and nobody was the wiser.

The infamous Coffey “spoon tree.” Photo: Lynn Coffey.

One December we found the perfect white pine and I marked the trunk with a ribbon and kept a close watch on it for several weeks.  The day came to cut it but when we arrived on the scene, all that was left was a fresh-cut stump, oozing with sap.  I was outraged as only a ten year old girl can be when a prize is snatched out from under her nose!

Another time we brought home a tree, set it up, and was standing back admiring it when my mother let out a shriek. Closer inspection revealed the cause of her alarm—hundreds of tiny seed ticks  crawling up the living room wall behind the tree. Our only recourse was to drag it back to the woods and locate another that wasn’t infested.

The first Christmas after marriage is supposed to be filled with warmth and romance. To the new husband I stood firm in my belief that a tree should be cut in the woods so we piled in our old jeep, making a bad last-minute decision to take our three young puppies with us. By the time we arrived at the edge of the woods the pups were in the throes of car sickness, making loud retching noises, which took away somewhat from the festive atmosphere. Husband wasn’t as patient as dear old Dad and soon tired of my tree-hopping escapades and settled the matter by chopping down a “Charlie Brown” tree; a sparse, twiggy bull pine that he threw in the back with the pups.  By the time we got home the pups had emptied the last of their stomachs on the tree and it had to be sprayed down with the hose and air dried before bringing it in. If that wasn’t bad enough, after hanging a few ornaments and a strand of lights on it, our pet raccoon made a mad dash up the trunk and toppled it over on our new avocado green rug. The husband rolled his eyes and covered his face. The wife, as I recall, cried.

Several years into the marriage our premature daughter was born and that Christmas I placed her under the tree and took a picture. I sent it to my mother, who thought it was a photo of Heather’s first doll baby. I had a hard time convincing her that it was our real doll baby!

Years later, that same little girl was posing under the Christmas tree for another picture when our cat dove off the stairs right into the middle of the whole shebang, knocking it over. Rooting around in the debris, I found an arm and pulled daughter to safety. The photo shoot was over!

Christmas trees; both large and small, we’ve had them all. In fact, for the last several years Billy and I have gone completely rogue where our holiday trees are concerned.  

One year we cut a naked dogwood and strung 500 white lights through the branches and festooned it with long silver tinsel. Our granddaughters loved sitting under it, blowing the tinsel to make it shimmer.

For the last seven years we’ve put up our “spoon tree,” a sapling that Billy drilled holes and inserted wooden spoons in, to hang the ornaments on. It is a real conversation piece and the best part—no fallen needles to vacuum up.  

Our trees and keepsake ornaments have no theme and are not color coordinated. They are a mish-mash of past Christmases that always bring a smile, warmth to the heart, and sweet remembrances where nothing matched but somehow fit together perfectly! Merry Christmas, everyone! 

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