Someone asked me the other day what my favorite Christmas song was when I was a child. I quickly said, “Oh Christmas Tree .”I remember it well from music class in elementary school. It was one of several that we sang many times every holiday season, along with Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman. For me, Oh Christmas Tree was easier to remember the words. That was the main reason it was my favorite.
I also adored Christmas trees. As a kid, and even now, they are my favorite holiday decoration. Majority of my years, my family has only had an artificial tree. But decorated with sentimental ornaments and tinsel and glowing with bright lights, I can easily imagine the tree as real.
As a kid, I loved the Pine trees that grew on our property. I was mesmerized by how they stayed so green and lush in the winter when all else was brown and every tree bare. They even smelled green and alive. Many years later, when I had my own yard with Pine trees, I learned I was very allergic to Pine. So it worked fine that I only had an artificial one at Christmas. If I had an allergic reaction to the Christmas tree as a kid, it would have taken much of the magic out of my favorite holiday.
I remember one Christmas when we had no artificial tree for whatever reason, so my mother decided to take a chance on a live one. She disliked a real tree because of the mess it made with the needles falling off and strongly felt it was a fire hazard. I remember the day she sent my older brother to the woods to find a “decent, small tree that we could use on a tabletop” (her description). He must have been around 14 years old at the time. She didn’t seem very confident in his abilities, but my dad was away working. My brother was all she had. So she reluctantly sent him into the woods with the necessary tools. Mama had given him strict instructions on what shape of tree she wanted and what size. I also remember her complaining the whole time my brother was gone just how much she despised a real Christmas tree.
Lo and behold, my brother comes back with a real Christmas tree. He proudly brings it into the house. I could hardly contain my excitement, but I did because Mama was still in a mood! It looked lovely to me and smelled even better. My Mama did not agree at all. Her first words were, “You got the wrong kind!”. Evidently, my brother had picked out a specific species of Pine tree that she did not like. She continued to explain her reasons, one of which I remember as being it would drip sap all over everything. Looking back, I can still see the look on my brother’s face. He was so deflated.
Out the door, my brother went with the wrong tree, along with instructions to bring back a better one. A while later, he appeared with a smaller but more accurate tree. Perfect in our Mama’s eyes. “It will have to do,” she said, and we began to decorate it. The following year, we had a new artificial tree. Never again did we get a live one.
It’s been years since I thought of that day, so many holidays ago. It makes me sad to remember the way my brother must have felt. And sorry that my mother handled it the way she did. Our parents are not perfect. And we as parents could be better as well. No matter how hard we try. My Mama was a wonderful woman, and though she failed at times in her role as mother, all that she did right far outweighed her mistakes. I wonder if she ever thought back on that day with regret. Being a mother myself, I imagine that she did.
I know that every year of my brother’s adult life, he has had a live Christmas tree in his home for the holidays. Usually, one he has gone into the woods and gotten himself. The last one I remember seeing was much too big for the room and oddly shaped. But it smelled wonderful. I also remember how proud my brother was of it. That made me happy.