The Detective’s Daughter — Oh Christmas Tree

kimspolicehatKim in Baltimore still decorating and shopping for Christmas.

kimI was twenty-seven years old before I found out Christmas trees came from a tree farm and didn’t magically appear in a roped-off lot in front of the hardware store on the corner. I’m a city girl, what do I know? Our tree, the one that sat on a table in my Nana’s living room, was silver and had come out of a box she kept in the back of the basement on what we called “the bank.” Each year Pop-pop would haul it upstairs and curse as he tried to match the branches with the tiny slot they fit into. Nana would bring out a boxes of glass ornaments. There were a box of red, a box of green and one of blue. Each year only one color was chosen for the tree. On the floor sat a rotating light that made a whizzing noise as it spun round changing the color of the silver tree from blue to gold, then red to green and back again.

Upstairs in our apartment my mom had bought our tree from Montgomery Wards. It also had branches that needed to be pushed into the base of the tree. We had a beautiful star that glowed on top and dozens of feathered angels hanging from the branches. Not one person in my family had a Christmas tree that needed to be watered.

When I met my husband, he told me the most amazing thing. He said he worked on a Christmas tree farm. Now, I knew every year that there was a huge tree in New York City and that it came from some far off land like Maine or Vermont, but I had no idea you could get such a thing here in Maryland!

kimtreeoutsideThe first year we were married we set off one freezing cold morning in search of the perfect tree. I was in charge of carrying the saw. We drove for nearly an hour and then walked for another, at least it felt that way. Soon my nose was frozen and I would have agreed to a branch in a vase of water for a Christmas tree. My husband cut down the tree and we dragged it to the road to wait to be picked up. “This is fun, right?” my husband asked. Sure, I nodded, and tried to stomp feeling back into my feet. Yet, for the next twenty-three years with dogs and kids alongside us, we trekked across fields in search of our tree.

Then a few years ago I had a lung infection and was told by my doctor that I could no longer have a live tree in my house. I mourned the end of our family tradition. I missed the stinging cold on my face as we walked and the way my children’s voices echoed in the fields, the soothing warmth of the little shed that sold hot kimtreechocolate and cider. It would all be just photos and memories now.

This year we pull the branches out of the box and debate as to which goes where on the base. I make the hot chocolate and we unwind the lights and another Christmas tree is adorned.

Readers: What kind of tree do you have at your house? Or if you don’t have a Christmas tree what other decorations do you pull out every year?

31 Thoughts

  1. Isn’t it funny how the painful memories can become sweet ones? You’ve returned full circle to your childhood. It’s the lights and feeling that count, anyway. We always have a recently cut tree, whether we cut it or get it from a lot at our local farm. I love that smell.

    1. I agree, Edith. I really miss the fresh smell of the tree, no scented candle can compare. However, the clean-up is easier and I’m not as worried about setting this tree on fire with too many lights! 🎄

  2. I came home from retreat to a decorated (fake) tree. We did the live tree for years, and made an event of decorating. I love the silver tree! And you look exactly the same now as you did then, Kim, only (slightly) taller!

  3. A live one, and a crazy mix of ornaments, starting with quite a few blown glass (?) ones from my childhood (amazing they survived) to such gems as a plastic Joe Montana (hmm, I must get a matching Tom Brady). I’ve added a few new ones, including a small bird sitting on a nest (what could be better for a tree?), from a great store in Dublin.

    1. Sheila, my mother-in-law always decorated her tree (live) with birds’ nest she had found. She must have had at least twelve she had kept over the years. She had many pretty bird ornaments as well.

  4. We have always had an artificial tree because my sister and I are both allergic to real trees. We have a ton of special ornaments that we’ve collected over the years that make the tree special.

  5. I’ve always had a real tree, and I do love them, but I’m beginning to see the appeal of the artificial, honestly, now that my son is off at college in Boston. We’ve always traipsed around a Christmas tree field and sawed one down with those dull orange saws they give you (my menfolk are secret lumberjacks), but without our boy around until nearly the Big Day, we bought one precut off a lot this year. And I was the one who had to help wrestle the thing into the tree stand, and did almost all the decorating myself. Still, there are a couple of ornaments I saved out for Lumberjack the Younger to put on–including the Mr. Spock Shuttlecraft that says “Shuttlecraft to Enterprise. Spock here. Happy Holidays. Live long, and prosper.” Cuz it ain’t Christmas here until Mr. Spock speaks. (That’s the last ornament to come off the tree when it gets taken down, too. We like our ceremonies.)

      1. Hi, Jane! We love our ceremonies here, too! Everything has to be done in a certain order. I feel the same as you do about the tree now that my own children are grown. They are not as involved with the decorating of the tree, but I really hear grief if I make the Italian cookies without them!

  6. No room in the trailer for a tree (and the cat would climb and attempt to eat it anyway), so each year I help set up the artificial ones at the senior centers.

      1. They seem to appreciate the tree looking more like a tree and less like a defeated bottle brush.

  7. We used to put up 3 real trees. Now we usually only put up a little fake one, but this year we decided to go big and put a a real one again. What fun! But needles are already starting to fall.

    1. I must admit I don’t miss all the vacuuming that goes with a live tree. We usually put up at least two trees, one in the living room and one in our family room. This year, however, the train garden seems to have taken over the family room so there’s no room for the tree!

  8. Sometimes I do a fake tree that is pre-lit but this year I’ve been so busy, the fake didn’t make the cut!

    I had purchased a fern for the front porch this summer and I brought it in for the winter and I put some fairy lights on it and a star garland and voila, the Christmas fern!

    Merry Christmas!!

  9. My family would drive out and cut down our own real tree for years when I was growing up. Then at some point we graduated to a fake tree.

    When I moved out, I started getting real trees as well, but when I bought my condo, I moved on to fake trees. I miss the smell. I don’t miss the rash I would get while decorating and undecorating. And I appreciate the fact that I can set them up and put lights on before I leave town for Thanksgiving. It make decorating that much easier when I get back so I have a couple of weeks to enjoy them before I have to undecorate. And there’s no rush at that end of things since the tree hasn’t dried out.

    And yes, I have two – one on either side of my sliding glass door. The problem when you start collecting Hallmark ornaments is needing room to display them. Both of my trees are rather small since I don’t have much room for them. As a result, only a small fraction of my ornaments get displayed every year, chosen by whim and how lazy I’m feeling when it comes to decorating.

    1. I agree, Mark. I believe if I had a tree in every room of my house I still would have ornaments left over. My plan is to give my children a huge – and I do mean HUGE – box of ornaments when they move to their own homes. Do you need anymore? I have plenty!!

  10. I miss having a real tree. I didn’t do a tree this year, but I’ve had a fake one for the past 10 years. Going to do a real one next year for sure! Thanks for the story Kim. And Merry Christmas!

  11. With the kids grown and raising their own, I have not had a tree or decorated for several years. This year after selling my home and moving into an apartment, a first for me, I decided to bring out “The Santa’s”, it was so much fun, some I forgot I had. As apartments have so little room I just went with the old world Santa’s this time. Maybe a tree next year, but it will have to be real skinny 🙂

  12. We always have a real tree, but years ago my husband came home from work with a tabletop version of that silver tree. We adopted it as the “children’s tree,” the one the kids got to decorate. I always hated it, and when the kids were grown and we moved, it got “lost.” Recently my husband and daughter were at Brimfield, the giant antique fair and flea market in central Massachusetts. My husband saw a tabletop silver tree and thought he’d bring it home as a joke, until he saw the price tag–$165. It wasn’t that funny, so the tree stayed in Brimfield.

  13. We stopped getting live trees a few years ago. We bought an artificial tree with lights, to save money. Well, we have gone through so many fake trees, because the lights stop working that we probably would have come out cheaper, in the end buying live trees every year.

  14. I have been ill for the last year so not up to a lot of decorating. I picked up a large rosemary plant which is sitting on my coffee table. I had decorated it, but after having to redecorate daily when my cats undecorate every night, I’ve given up on that. It smells wonderful, however. I have a wood hanging on the front door of an old pickup with trees in the back of it. It is hung on a hook with bells that ring when the door is open. I have some stockings hanging on the wall. That’s it for this year.

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