Friday, December 31, 2010

O, Christmas Tree

It was a great holiday tradition in the Dougherty household to go out to cut down our Christmas tree.  We would pile in the car and drive the winding country roads to Cope's Christmas Tree farm, where we would trek down a hill in search of the perfect tree.  A big one, with a nice full shape and firm branches for hanging ornaments. 

Over the years, our choice of trees grew larger in size and we would have to trek further and further out on the tree farm to find one that suited our taste.  Now, a tree can look quite normal sized when set against the backdrop of a wide open field, but inside the confines of one's living room it is a completely different story.

I'm sure you've all seen the movie National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation?  Well, remember the scene where they untie their tree, only to have it unfurl through the room with such force that it breaks out a window and takes up the entire living room?  This was pretty much the case at our house every year.   

Upon unloading the tree from the top of the car, we would invariably realize that the tree we had chosen was, oh, maybe four to five feet too tall for our nine foot ceilings.  The amount that my Dad would have to hack off in order for the tree to clear our ceiling could have been equivalent to the height of a normal person's Christmas tree.

And that's just the height.  Our trees tended to be so wide and full as to take several full grown adults to push them through our front door.  On one such occasion, the girth of the tree and the force of the pushing just about popped our storm door off its hinges, leaving damage that my Dad didn't get around to fixing for several years.  Once inside, we usually placed the tree in a corner between our front and living rooms, which are separated by an archway.  Some years the tree took up so much room as to only allow passage from room to room by sliding by with your back pressed against the wall, or risk getting prickled by the needles or bitten by a small woodland creature that might be residing inside (as I often suspected but could never verify).

The task of getting the trees inside was so great that my Dad devised several different plans over the years to get the trees out.  One such plan involved bringing a chainsaw into the house to remove all the branches and take the tree out in pieces, while another involved stuffing it through a nearby window, where it subsequently got stuck (surprise, surprise) and needed to be cut out (again with the chainsaw).

But once the tree was decorated, I have to admit that our efforts were worth it.  They were always beautiful and I would spend many hours over the years just lying on the floor admiring them.  But our evident eye for beauty did not mean the trees we chose were without flaws. 

There are just some things you can't know about a tree simply by looking at them.  Like if the tree has a propensity for leaning to one side in the tree stand and has to be fastened to the wall with a series of ropes and hooks. 

Or if the tree has some kind of disease that causes every single solitary needle to fall off by the day after Christmas.  Real trees usually drop needles and require vigilant vacuuming, but this was something else altogether.  We knew something was up when we would wake in the night to the sound of ornaments sliding down branches, cleaning off every needle in the process, and crashing to the floor.  The remains of that tree was a bare skeleton, which sparked a neighborhood rumor that our tree had caught fire when it was seen out on our front porch. 

My sister, brother, and I would find needles in our Christmas toys for months to come, and it was not uncommon to get stabbed with a dry old needle while playing Barbies or Legos.  That's the great thing about having a real Christmas tree--you find evidence of its existence throughout the year.  And while others have long forgotten about Christmas, you are still reminded of it in August when you scream out in pain after stepping on an old needle that has worked its way out from under a rug.

1 comment:

  1. The Bernhardt family always looked forward to the latest and funniest Dougherty Christmas tree story... We were pretty jealous after moving to Florida and never being able to cut down our own tree again! Although we staged a few "fake cutting" photo ops for a couple years... just not the same tho!