The Christmas Tree

When I was a little girl my family always cut our own Christmas tree. We'd spend hours driving through the woods looking for the perfect tree and once we'd found it my dad would pull out his saw, cut the tree and we'd take it home. As I got older and the woods around our town got smaller and smaller and became "Private Property" so we found a Christmas Tree Farm in a little town in South Alabama to go to. It was about an hours drive from our house and we'd leave early in the morning, go to the farm and then wander for hours looking for just the right tree. The drive home was always an adventure, wondering if the tree would stay tied to the top of the car, counting cows in the pastures we passed and singing Christmas carols. Getting the tree was always my absolute favorite part of Christmas. When I grew up the Island King and I would drive to the same tree farm to cut our tree and it was always just as much fun as when I was little. After a few years we moved farther away and that first year away we looked for a tree farm near us but there wasn't one. As Christmas got closer and closer that year I refused to go to a "tree stand" so we got into the truck one afternoon and drove way up into the woods looking for our tree. It got dark on us that afternoon and out of desperation we found a tree by the headlights of our truck, cut it in the dark and brought it home. That was the year I learned never to pick a Christmas Tree in the dark. That was truly the ugliest tree you've ever seen. We called it our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree because no matter how we decorated it that was still the scrawniest, ugliest excuse for a Christmas Tree you've ever seen LOL And then it started dropping needles. Sharp, pointed needles that got buried in the carpet and that we stepped on for months. It was a horrible tree and the Island King, whose family had always gone to a tree stand to get their tree, thought maybe I was over the need to cut my own tree. He was wrong. I got lucky the next year because I found a Christmas Tree farm about an hour and a half away from us and of course that's where we went that year to cut our tree. The year after that we moved here to our little Island and I searched high and low for a Christmas Tree farm. I found one up in a small town near the Interstate and that's where we went. By now we had the Island Girl and we would pack a picnic lunch and make a whole day of getting our tree. This went on for many more years and as the 2 Island Boys came along it got to be something all of the kids looked forward to. Even the Island King agreed this was much better than going to the tree stand in the Walmart parking lot for a tree. And did you know those trees from the Christmas Tree farms were cheaper? Much cheaper which added to the appeal. Of course we spent more on gas but we were making memories that we'll have for a lifetime. And then 4 years ago the unthinkable happened. We drove up to the tree farm and there on the gate was an Out of Business sign. What?!! I found out later that the little old man who owned the farm had died and his wife couldn't manage it on her own so she'd closed it down. Oh, what a sad day that was. Back home we drove, no tree tied to the top of the car and with a sad feeling in our hearts. And what would we do? The tree farm that I went to as a child was still in operation but we are talking about a 3 hour one way drive. Somehow I knew that a 6 hour car trip with 3 kids would not be a glorious, memory filled event. So we had no choice but to go to a tree stand. It was so sad, standing there in the Walmart parking lot picking out our tree. The Island King tried to make it a fun event but let me tell you there's a lot of difference in going to a tree farm or out into the woods to find the perfect tree than standing in the Walmart parking lot. But what were we to do? So we brought the very expensive Walmart tree home and don't you know that tree was deader than a doorknob less than a week later. The needles all fell off, ornaments would randomly fall to the floor and by Christmas Day we had nothing but a stalk in our living room. The next year rolled around and I made the Island King take us to a VERY expensive tree stand set up in a restaurant parking lot. If I couldn't go cut my own I wasn't going to buy another half dead Walmart tree. We picked a pretty tree, got it home and again less than a week later it was dead. Needles falling off, nothing but a stalk left dead, just like the year before. I was so mad that I went back to that tree stand with a picture of my very expensive dead tree and raised cane with those people. They offered to give me a new tree and I took it. We got it home, undecorated the dead tree, redecorated the new tree and watched it die - days before Christmas. That was the same year that the house 2 doors down from us burned to the ground 3 days after Christmas because their dead tree was so dry it somehow caught on fire. The next year I decided that since we could no longer go and cut our own tree and since I was a little freaked out that our neighbors lost everything because of a dead Christmas tree we were going to buy a fake tree. It was a sad decision. I so badly wanted my children to have those wonderful memories of cutting our own tree but we live on the beach and there just aren't a lot of Christmas Trees growing on the beach. The kids all put up a fight. A fake tree just wasn't the same and a tree from a stand had to be better they said. I disagreed and finally won the battle (I am the Island Queen after all) I told them that a fake tree wouldn't die and leave a stalk before Christmas and it would look good right up until the day we took it down - and it was a lot less likely to catch on fire. So off we went, in search of the prettiest fake tree we could find. After hours of looking at every store in town we found one. It's a big beautiful tree and it was pre-lit which meant we wouldn't have to spend a lot of time putting lights on it - we could devote all of our time to hanging the ornaments. We bought the tree and it did indeed look very pretty - until most of the lights went out. We messed with that thing for hours but never could get the lights to work so we ended up stringing lights on the tree anyway. That all brings us to this year. We got the tree down from the attic yesterday and somehow those strings of not working lights had gotten all tangled up in the branches and the branches wouldn't open right. The Island King and I decided to take all of the lights off and then add our own lights once the tree was set up. Well let me tell you that there must have been 2.4 million lights on that tree (it certainly didn't look like that many even when they were all working) and each and every light was attached with a plastic anchor. We each got a pair of small clippers and went to work undoing the lights. And we worked, and worked, and worked. After about an hour the Island King bugged out on the project but I kept at it. It took me HOURS to get all of those lights off! At 1:00 this morning I snipped the last light and was done. I'll spare you the cussing I did but I will tell you it wasn't pretty LOL I sat down and looked at that %#$^& tree and burst into tears. We have many family traditions that our kids will remember but it still makes me sad that one of my favorites has become a thing of the past. Today we'll decorate that tree and we'll have fun and I'll tell stories about that awful Charlie Brown tree their dad and I had that year and everyone will be thankful for the tree we have. And I'll make a note to myself that when it's time to replace this tree it won't be with a pre-lit tree LOL