Last year I decided for the first time to get my Christmas tree the old-fashioned way. For over 75 years I’d made the all-weather Yuletide treks around town, beginning as my father’s helper, searching for a Christmas tree dealer who would charge what we considered a reasonable price for a respectable tree. They were quite rate.

Dad and I would be haggling with a tree guy as snowflakes and sleet piled up on our mackinaws.  “You’re kidding, right?” Dad would say. “That can’t be the right price for this poor excuse for a balsam.” Neither of us knew a balsam from a sequoia, but  we tried to sound like savvy tree shoppers.,

“That’s a bargain at this price,” the tree guy would argue. “Yes, there is one narrow stunted side, but this is just the right tree to be going  into the corner of a dimly lit room. Besides, I’ll also throw in a few branches that you can easily attach to the trunk to fill in.”

By then Dad and I were shivering uncontrollably and showing signs of frostbite, so we paid the four dollars (This was 1943) and watched as the tree guy lifted the balsam (or whatever) and carried it to our car, leaving a brilliant green trail of needles while muttering Christmas carols . Well, he was muttering something or other.

I’ve had to endure this painful scenario every year since and last year I decided instead to go into the forest and find my own tree the way our ancient  ancestors did.  I admit, it was not all that easy, the searching, the chopping, the constant looking over my shoulder for an anxious landowner or an accusative forest ranger, but I finally emerged with a beautiful specimen and only minor cuts and bruises.

On Christmas eve I sat before my prize, beautifully decorated and illuminated while my family  basked in its glow.  “That’s a great tree, Dad,” my son said. “It’s so sturdy. with such strong branches.  What kind of a tree is it?”

“It’s  hard to tell without the leaves,  ” I said, ” but I think it’s an oak..”

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