|The tradition of having a real tree continues in our home.|
Once again the season of Advent is upon us, and it has me thinking about Christmas times of long ago. In honour of this first day in the Advent Calendar, here is a story I have shared before of an adventure with my father and my brother, the year our Dad took us out to chop down a Christmas tree.
Oh, Christmas Tree
As I write this, the morning is cool and grey, with a combination of ice and rain lightly pelting against my window. It is not the sort of December day I recall from my childhood. The day I am thinking about seems so long ago. It began with a morning on which my Irish father, still getting acclimated to the then bitter cold Canadian winters, took my brother and me out to a Christmas tree farm to enjoy the experience of finding, cutting down, and carrying home our Christmas tree.
It seemed Dad had diligently created a plan in the weeks leading up to that Sunday, his only day off in the week. He had spoken to the men with whom he worked, trying to discover the best farm with the best trees. He seemed a little disheartened, but not put off, when we awoke that Sunday morning to discover it had snowed heavily the night before. Never one to be deterred, after a hearty breakfast, he dug the car out of the deep snow, grabbed the axe, and we set off for the farm.
Back then my dad drove a big blue Buick that we had named Nellie. He skillfully piloted 'her' down the snow-covered roads, spurred on by my brother and me chanting "C'mon Nellie, C'mon Nellie", from our places in the back seat. We drove for what seemed like hours in little kid time, but it was probably not very far. As we drove, once again the snow began to fall. By the time we reached the farm, it was freezing cold, snowing hard, and visibility was poor.
At this point I was a little (okay a lot) unsure about this adventure. As we trudged through the snow I kept my head down, with my eyes closed, trying to stop tears from streaming down my face. I clung tight to the sleeve of my dad's coat, as he carried the axe in his hand. The snow seemed to get deeper as we walked, so somehow he hooked the axe through the belt loops on his coat, held tight to my brother's hand, and swung me up into his arm, saying, "There now, you're alright". I remember hugging his neck and pressing my cold little face into his warm cheek. It was wonderful.
As we reached an open spot in the rows of trees, my dad pointed to one just in front of him and exclaimed, "There now, how 'bout that one?" He set me down next to my brother in front of what seemed like a gigantic tree. Together all three of us brushed away the snow from the base of the tree, so that Dad could clearly see the trunk at which he would swing the axe. He lifted us out of the deep snow, set us back safely out of the way, and struck the axe against the trunk of the tree. All the while shivering, my brother and I clapped our snow-caked mittens and shouted, "C'mon Dad, C'mon Dad". It didn't seem to take very long before he had downed the tree.
We needed to get the tree back to the car, and Dad encouraged us, saying he needed our help. He took hold of a thick branch on one side at the bottom of the tree, and my brother and I took hold of a couple on the other side. It seemed as though together we dragged the tree back to the car, but I'm certain Dad towed most of the weight. He warmed up the car, and we happily climbed in while he strapped the tree to the roof. He got in and opened a big Thermos of hot tea, and a box of shortbreads, that my mom had tucked into a bag for us. It seemed as though we sat there for quite a while, drinking and eating, sniffling and giggling, talking about how great our tree was going to look, and how much Mom was going to love it.
Eventually the snow stopped and we made our way home. Mom greeted us at the door cheering and laughing about the size of the tree. Even though we had very high ceilings in our house, it seemed as though my dad had to cut at least two feet off of it, in order to get our tree to stand upright. When he finally had it trimmed to the right height, we all loved it.
These days every Christmas when my husband and I go out to the Christmas tree farm to buy our pre-cut tree, I recall that wonderful day with my father and brother. The fragrance of the tree we found and chopped down on that day is still with me.
What recollections do you have about family Christmas trees?