© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, Christmas, tree, pine, family traditions, Dolly Parton, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, Your LDS Radio, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)
I’m sure that, like me, you have many fond memories of holiday traditions with your family. Grandpa putting lights on the roof and falling on his head. Grandma sipping a little too much hot, buttered rum ... er ... I mean ... milk. Crazy Uncle Jimmy sliding candy canes into the stockings of complete strangers—while their feet are still inside.
And, of course, there is the family outing in search of the perfect Christmas tree.
During the particular time that I'm remembering, we lived in California. My dad—being a grown-up boy from the inner city of San Francisco—insisted we find a tree in the rugged outdoors. We took along a hatchet ... to beat off other customers at the Christmas tree lot on the corner.
Getting the evergreen home was easy—we tied it to the roof with twine. It rode there until the first bump, and then slid down over the rear window so all that could be seen in back were tangled boughs. But, it didn’t matter because the car heater clunked and spewed out a semi-frozen draft of air every five minutes or so, which served to give the windows a wonderful, winter wonderland look. And a frosted opacity that prevented Dad from seeing other cars as he changed lanes. So it was, with horns blaring and tires squealing, we weaved from lane to lane, through the town, with our prize.
We eventually arrived home in one piece, and in fine, but frozen, spirits. No, not those kinds of spirits. The kind that brings an emotional high.
And that’s when the trouble began.
Displaying his muscles, my dad dragged the tree into the house, knocking all the needles off the underside and leaving a green, pine needle trail behind him. While Mom and I held the metal stand in place, he gave a “heave-ho” and set the tree into it. The pine had a beautiful, single spike at its top, which was just perfect for our angel decoration. I thought she was the most beautiful ornament that existed. It never occurred to me, until Uncle Jimmy mentioned it, that angel tree toppers seldom have such ample … um … cleavage. To quote Uncle Jimmy, “My heck, she looks like Dolly Parton!”
After Dad stepped back from jamming the tree into place, Mom studied it. “The tree is too tall. Look, the top spike is bent against the ceiling at a forty-five degree angle!”
Dad pondered the situation for a minute. “We'll just cut it off.”
Mom looked at him as if he had just suggested there was no Santa Claus. “We most certainly will not. It’ll ruin the look of it. You’ll have to cut some off the bottom.”
Dad got out the hacksaw and started on the trunk. Ten minutes passed and nothing changed. Fifteen minutes passed and a slight rip appeared in the wood. Sweat dripped off Dad’s face and onto the sawdust pile on the floor. A lung-encrusting pinewood powder drifted through the air. Being a California kid, I thought it was snow. Mom ran around with the vacuum, mumbling about men and their bright ideas, and trying to suck up the dust.
By now, Dad’s good cheer had evaporated—like the rum in eggnog—and he picked up the hatchet. Fearing he was going after Uncle Jimmy, I held my breath. Dad went at it with a vengeance and twenty minutes later, the deed was done. No, not Uncle Jimmy—he was still alive and sitting in the corner, eating Christmas cookies and humming an aimless tune.
Dad held up the tree. Silence settled in the room, along with the sawdust.
“It looks kinda like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree,” I finally said, staring at the bare branches on one side.
“It’s not very tall,” Mom said, eyeing all four feet of it.
Dad scratched his head, and his eyes looked round and perplexed. “How did that happen? It was supposed to be taller.” He plunked it into the stand, and the three of us stepped back to look at it.
Somewhere in the distance, a radio played the first few notes of “O' Christmas Tree.” Then, Uncle Jimmy’s voice—thick with chocolate torte and wassail—offered solace from the corner. “Well, it may not be the perfect tree, but at least Dolly Parton will fit on the top.”
(Note: I do admit to using a teeny bit of artistic license with this story, but you're allowed to do that with Christmas stories ... right? :o)
What's playing in my head: What else but, O' Tannenbaum, sung by Nat King Cole.
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