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The Christmas Tree has long been a very important part of Christmas for me. I remember going at a young age to scout just the perfect tree.
My parents didn't always have much money for such frivolities and so a few years they made arrangements with friends who had property with some pines old Christmas tree farms that were long overgrown to go find a "wild" tree that we could trim down to size.
My mom made the most beautiful wreaths and garland so she and I would carry the extra branches to the truck and pile them high. We would also scout the woods and rural roadsides for milkweed pods, grapevines, thistle and red twigs that could be used for making the wreaths and decorations.
I have always had a "thing" about the perfect tree. I feel a deep connection to getting a "real" tree. This perfect tree doesn't look perfect by the book though. In my mind, the best trees are those with a little character. I like one that has some gaps here and there and while mostly even, I don't like those that have been hedge sheared into the perfect cone. For me, that ruins its personality.
Each tree does seem to have its personality. We remember back to trees that were too tall or ended up being crooked once we got them in the stand or, like our tree last year, wound up being much fatter than we thought once we got her in the house.
The "hunt" for the tree is always part of the adventure for me - as is cutting down the tree. I just love the whole process of getting bundled up and trailing through the lot or woods on that hunt - hoping to catch a glimpse of a little bunny hurrying away or discovering a hidden birds nest buried deep in the branches of a tree. All the excited shouts of "Mom, look at this one!" and deep discussions about height, color, straightness, roundness, branch strength for the large ornaments, etc.
And then the men would cut them down - my dad, my brothers, my step-dad, then my husband. When we would go home, my mom would prepare an warming meal of grilled cheese, soup and hot chocolate while the men would get the tree situated and haul out the boxes of decorations.
Then my mom and I would carefully unpack the decorations and tell stories about our memories of where each came from and what it meant to us. And when the tree was done we would turn off the lights and sit back and admire it.
We have continued this tradition and usually my parents and youngest brother make the trip with us to get their own tree at the same time. This year, my husband was out of town and my step-dad was working. So my daughter took pictures while my youngest brother and I sawed the trees and dragged them out.
The tree farm we use is only a couple of miles away. The husband had a landscaping business and they planted a large number of small pines to eventually use in his business. When he decided to close shop on the business they were left with a field full of beautiful pines of about 5 different varieties and they were just about perfect Christmas tree size.
So they open up for a few weeks and $20 a tree and they have a small bonfire and offer hot chocolate and popcorn out of their little pole barn and they are friendly, wonderful folks who provide a great and memorable experience. My daughter has taken over as the serious tree critic and my son thinks this is all a great adventure.
My daughter is also old enough to have her own memories of each of the ornaments and enjoyed telling little brother all about them as we unpacked and decorated the tree.
Little Man decided on which lights we would use.
Each year I also let the kids pick a special new ornament that means something to them to add to the tree and remember that time in their life.
While we do have a few random ornaments we just like, most have a story like this one that reminds me of my two red horses and the years I had with them.
Others have been given as gifts like this heart that is one from my mom the first year we were married. My husband admitted that he was sad to have missed this tradition (as much as he might complain about all the fuss sometimes) and realizes the value of those memories and traditions. We really enjoy having the cheery lights and sparkling ornaments for those few short weeks.