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 are quite rare.

Dad and I would be haggling with a tree guy as snowflakes or 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 for a corner of a dimly lit room.  And I’ll also throw in a few branches you can easily attach to the trunk to fill  in”

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

I’ve had to endure this entire painful scenario every year since and last year I decided instead, to go into the forest and find my own perfect tree the way our ancestors did, hundreds or  maybe thousands of years ago.  It wasn’t all that easy, the searching, the chopping, the constant looking over my shoulder for a challenging  land owner or forest ranger, but eventually I emerged  with a beautiful specimen and only minor cuts and bruises.

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

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





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