As Nina Simone so soulfully sings in, “Who Knows Where The Time Goes?”:
“You use up everything you got, trying to give everybody what they want.”
This year, our only point of stress in readying for the season seems to have been in semi-retiring our artificial Christmas tree. For the past few years, it’s the only thing I’ve heard Kevin whine about…”The stand is broken….the branches won’t unfold….there are some missing parts $@#$#…”
This, our Charlie Brown tree that 18 years ago I excitedly dragged home and set up before Halloween, fat and pregnant with Jacob. I couldn’t wait to get it into our farmhouse, and I recall the little trick or treaters, amazed that anyone would even consider setting up a Christmas tree before Halloween was over! Having always had a real tree growing up, I marvelled at the novelty of being able to decorate and enjoy the twinkling lights without the mess of watering, dropping needles and sneezing.
As it were, I landed in the hospital early with the pregnancy, and the few days after Halloween that I enjoyed my new plastic tree, were to be the only ones that year. I spent Christmas in the hospital waiting for my firstborn, with Nurse Cratchit hovering over my every move until Jake decided December 30th would be the date of arrival.
The next year, the tree was unpacked – not so close to Halloween this year, but just shortly afterwards. Year after year, that tree followed me through five more homes, four towns, three careers, two more children, one more husband and finally across Canada into Alberta. Ornaments broke. New ones were lovingly purchased. Old memories fade, new ones replaced them. Children grew.
This year, firmly settled in Canmore, I contemplated the tree once again. The debate ensued about replacement. New ones in the Sears catalogue and Canadian Tire looked to expensive and elaborate. Beyond our budget, we began to think about what a REAL tree might be like.
I realized that no one in my family had ever experienced a real tree. Kevin’s family had never had one…and the kids had always only known the old artificial tree in our several homes.
“We can’t KILL a tree!”
Grace was emphatic. “Trees were homes to squirrels and bugs and deers….and wolverines, and elk hid near them…..How could we even THINK of cutting a tree down!”
Ben was excited. “CAN I USE THE AXE?”
After several weeks discussing this amongst ourselves, we decided that cutting down a Christmas tree wasn’t as bad as it sounded, and in the spring, we’d plant three trees to replace it.
Talking with some good friends, we discovered that not far from us, the forestry service had an area where they encouraged folks to cut down and thin out parts that needed it. For a whopping $5 you could take as much hot chocolate as you could track through the Alberta foothills, and cut down not one, not two….but THREE 6′ Christmas trees.
Where was this magical place?
Thoughts of a Bing Crosby-type Canadian Christmas experience with the family filled our heads. Gently falling snow… walking through the mountains with appropriate red and black plaid flannel Christmas-tree chopping apparel…. singing “Joy To The World”….smiling, rosy-cheeked children…pulling a sleigh……a golden retriever happily romping beside us with a stick in her mouth….
POOF….wait. We don’t have a dog. lol
That thought lasted for a few minutes before the Griswold’s reality entered in. Hmmm…packing the kids in the car…driving out….finding a thermos in our pantry, let alone hot chocolate…getting Ben to even wear a coat…-35 degree changeable mountain weather….even FINDING the place where these magical Christmas trees hide out. The biggest obstacle of all? – would we even all be in one place at one time on the appointed Christmas tree hunting day.
Fate intervened yet again in the quest of Christmas Tree. It seemed the biggest obstacle of all was our work schedules. In the end, after all of the convincing to Grace, (we actually told her there is a special farm where they grow them, and NO squirrels or worms or any animals at all are allowed to live there) we had to cancel it because the weather was freezing and work had to be attended to. Sad.
That fateful Sunday in early December, back to square one, we began to search out the tattered box that held our broken, battered and beat-up artificial tree. Crushed down by the months of angst over treeage, I ran to the grocery store to get milk. In the front of the store, a local charity had set up a Christmas Tree booth.
Hmmmmm……. I chatted with the lovely lady volunteer, bundled up within an inch of her life. “All proceeds to go to local families in need.” …Trees were $80.00. I thanked her kindly, told her to keep warm and tried not to have a stroke in front of her when I heard the sticker price. Only in Canmore, surrounded by millions of acres of mountain pines, would a tree cost $80.00.
Driving home, I recovered and thought about it a bit more…a real tree, funds that go to local community. This was our THING. I brought the milk in the house and pitched the idea to Kevin.
“EIGHTY BUCKS!!!!!!????….let’s just go across to our neighbour’s lawn and chop down that blue spruce he planted last year.”
Five minutes passed as he considered the options.
“Actually, let’s do it.”
“Can I still use the axe?” said Ben.
“Only on the neighbours.” piped Jake.
We bundled up to the cold. Kevin, Grace and I went to choose the tree from the freezing lady at Safeway.
She was happy to see us, and Grace carefully measured and chose.
“No squirrels or worms ever lived in this one, did they?”
We had to ask.
Home we went with our $80.00 tree, which was carefully trimmed and set up that night. Ben even had a chance to use the saw and cut a piece off the bottom. It fit perfectly. I had visions of this huge tree expanding half-way across the living room, into the dining room and having to brush past it to get to the kitchen. Nope. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
Each morning for the past month, it’s been lovingly watered and tended. No needles dropping. No sneezing or runny, watery eyes. No evidence of habitation by any animals, insects or aliens. No toes or fingers cut off or lost to frostbite. No swearing at broken branches or missing parts. Hot chocolate served fresh from the kitchen sans thermos, but with fresh marshmellows. Young man/boy gets to cut something with a sharp metal tool. Ample carolling at a dear friend’s Christmas gathering. Some plaid flannel under the tree for a special someone. My brother Doug and his family travelled 2400 miles with his family and perfect doggie to be with us. My Dad and Mom (read Bing Crosby and wife)….and best of all, I like looking at the tree knowing the funds are in a good place.
I like to think Nina might say….
“Hey Christmas Tree…thanks for using up everything you got to give everyone what they need.”