Tag: Tree

Oh Christmas Tree… by JoAnn

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.

Merry Christmas!

Under The Walnut Trees …By JoAnn

I can describe summers in the South in one word…hot!  

Back in the 1960s, air conditioning was only a dream to rural families, so it was usually a little cooler outdoors on a front porch, or especially under the shade of a nice old tree.

Growing up in Tennessee, playing outside from dawn to dusk was a daily routine in the summer months.  My sister and I spent many hours playing in the shade generously offered from the woods that surrounded our mountain top home.  The only breaks taken were for a much-welcomed meal, or a trip to the little red outhouse.  

There were a vast variety of trees on our 11-acre property.  My favorites were beautiful Pines, Dogwoods, Apple, Peach, and Mimosa.  There was even a Persimmon tree that my mama loved.  I adored sitting under my favorite pine tree in the front yard, reading many a book from cover to cover.  

Most of these trees were ancient.  Two of the oldest were two Black Walnut trees, growing side by side, near our backdoor.  They were huge!  And gave us a delicious supply of meaty Black Walnuts every year.  They were a treasure to my dad, and Black Walnuts were his favorite nut.

Those Black Walnut trees offered shade for a lot of activities.  My mama had a clothesline there, just for clothes she wanted to shield from the sun.  My mama sat under those trees to snap fresh green beans from her garden, that she would later freeze or can for us to eat on all winter.  My sister and I often helped, along with shucking many ears of corn.  My least favorite of the two.  Still is.  My daddy loved to stretch out on his aluminum, webbed chaise lounge, after a long day of working in the garden, or weeding the property with a sickle.  No such thing as a weed eater back then. 

One of the most memorable activities that went on under those Black Walnut trees has to be my mama killing chickens.  I know that sounds violent, but on a farm, chickens aren’t just for eggs.  They are also for fried chicken dinners!  I have a vivid memory of being around age 4 and seeing Mama wringing a chicken’s neck, chopping the head off with an ax, and then plucking it of all its feathers.  I was afraid of chickens because they always seemed to chase me.  So, I guess this gruesome scene wasn’t so bad to me.  But that changed when Mama cut one of the chicken’s head off and the chicken got away from her.  It went running around the yard…well…like a chicken with its head cut off!  And you guessed correct; it ran straight for me!  To say it terrified me to my core would be an understatement.  I imagine it took quite some time for Mama to calm me down.  From then on, she somehow kept chicken day a very private activity.  

Unfortunately, times got tough financially for my parents one year, and my daddy had to make a tough decision.  He called a local furniture company and asked if it would interest them in his old Black Walnut trees.  They came out and jumped at the chance to purchase the tall beauties.  I remember the day they were cut down.  It was one of the rare times growing up that I saw my Daddy cry.  My dad was a big, brawny man, but he loved dearly every little thing on our homestead and took great pride in it all.

On a brighter note, fried chicken remains one of my favorite foods. As a child I just never connected the chickens my mama killed with the ones in the freezer, or the fried pieces on my plate.  Lol.   

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