“Dad, I was wondering if you could help me get a Christmas tree,” I asked. It was my first Christmas in the duplex. My first Christmas in my own place, not living in my childhood home with Mom and Dad any more.
Of course, Dad said yes.
Dad came over early Saturday morning. We were going to go downtown to the Farmer’s Market where we used to get all of our “real” trees before Mom decided that we needed to have an artificial tree. Mom thought it was best to get an artificial tree because it was easier, it did not cost as much, and it was less hazardous. Right about the time I got a stuffed Snoopy for Christmas was about the time we got an artificial tree. No matter how annoying my younger self got or how much I begged, we never got a real tree in that house ever again.
Now that I had my own little rented place, I was ready to get a real tree.
Dad was all bundled up with his dogged ear cap and chopper gloves keeping him warm. The collar of his coat stood high to block out the cold. The newly fallen snow swirled around in the wind and was piled in drifts around the house.
After I pulled on my boots, wrapped myself up in my black pea coat, and put on my black woolen cap, off we went in Dad’s car.
It was a short trip to the Farmer’s Market. We passed the large, old houses on Fremont Avenue. They towered high on each side of the street and broke up the grayness of the sky. When we arrived, we traipsed along the snowy paths, and I saw the tree that I liked almost right away. It was just a little taller than me, and it had very sturdy branches with plenty of needles.
We told the man that we liked that tree, and Dad paid for it, which was a surprise. I was ready to pay, but was glad to be a kid with a Dad who wanted to pay for my first Christmas tree.
Mom had sent the old tree stand over with Dad. When we got back to the duplex, we put the tree in the corner of the dining room in front of the bay window, so that its soon-to-be lights could be seen from the street by passersby. I made sure there was plenty of water. As the tree started to thaw out, it let off a piney smell that emanated throughout the entire place.
Dad wished me luck, and I thanked him before he left for home.
I put up the lights, I strung popcorn, and dangled the strings on each branch. I placed golden bulbs evenly amongst the branches.
Days went by. I noticed that the tips of the branches were starting to turn brown, the piney smell had faded way too fast and that the tree was not drinking any water. Whenever I walked through the dining room, some needles would fall. The needles clinked as they fell on the golden bulbs and the lights, and made a perfect circle beneath the tree on the wooden floor. I wondered what was wrong.
I talked to Dad and Mom about it. They didn’t know either. We dubbed that tree the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. Sadly, all the needles were gone before Christmas. I did not dare plug in the lights. The bare branches held a wilted popcorn string. The golden bulbs were the only thing that sparkled. I felt like Linus without my blanket, I was so upset.
A few days after Christmas, I quickly gave up on my dream of ever having a real tree again, and I went to Frank’s and bought an artificial tree for half price.
Many years went by with time spent with that artificial Christmas tree. I dragged that tree into the house that I lived in with my husband. Then, the kids got to know that fake tree too. Nobody really liked it, except my Mom.
Right about the time that our youngest child, Matthew, got a stuffed Snoopy for Christmas was about the time when Laura, our oldest child, started asking if we could get a real tree. I thought back to my Charlie Brown Christmas tree. I didn’t know if I had it in me to go through the anguish of another sad tree shedding its needles one by one right before my eyes and ears.
The asking and prodding multiplied among our three children. Over and over I heard, “Can we get a real tree?” That question brought back many memories of my young whining self – that little girl who always wanted a real Christmas tree because it makes Christmas more real.
So off we went early one Saturday morning. We shuffled along the paths and found a beautiful tree. We told the man what tree we liked. I watched him saw off the bottom of the trunk. It was so that the tree could drink water. That is when I realized that was what we forgot to do before my dear old Dad and I left the Farmer’s Market! It had been so long since we had gotten a real tree, that Dad and I forgot to saw off the bottom.
Good grief. I felt like such a blockhead!