Growing up, our tree was always a real tree from the first Christmas I can remember until I was well into my twenties, and yes, still living at home. A few times we cut one ourselves (just to give me the experience I guess) but mostly Dad would pick one up at a tree lot a couple of weeks before Christmas and leave it outside for a week before bringing it in. He said he 'needed to look at it a bit'.
He always bought a tree that was way too big for our little house but there was a method to his madness. You see, no tree is perfect. There is usually one side of the tree that is a little 'sparse' shall we say. When Dad cut the bottom off the tree in order for it to fit in without bending at the ceiling and when he trimmed the trunk a foot or so, (to make room for presents underneath don't you know) there were always several lovely branches that could be used to ''fluff up' the thin parts of the tree. Dad would use the brace and bit to drill a few holes in the trunk and insert the extra branches. The result? TaDa! A perfect tree.
In the beginning (gee, just like Genesis) there was no tree stand in which to pour water. Those came along a few years later. Dad would nail a large wooden cross to the underside of the trunk which enabled the mighty fir/spruce/pine (whatever the flavour of the day was) to stand up beautifully balanced. Dad, however, was a man who took no chances when it came to kids, cats and trees. There was a hook in our ceiling directly above where the tree always stood. A wire was attached from the tree to the hook. That tree wasn't going anywhere.
At first it was Dad who looked after the strings of lights and Mom who decorated the tree. As time went by Dad still did the lights but my sister and I decorated the tree. A few years later, Dad tossed us the lights and said, "Go to it. Good luck." To give Mom credit I don't think she ever readjusted any of the decor on the tree which is really saying something because she was a bit of a 'tinsel perfectionist'.
When I hit my twenties I began to be aware of a certain amount of resistance from Dad when it came to anything Christmas, particularly the tree. One year, when it was one week to Christmas and no evidence of a tree on the property, I took matters into my own hands. I walked down to the corner lot and bought a tree, the last one on the lot, and dragged it home slowly and, I might add, painfully, by myself. Mom and Dad were out for the evening so I leaned it up against the side of the house by the back door and left it there. In the morning Mom told me the story of their ride home. They had reached the turn to our street (you know, where the tree lot was) and Dad said "Hey, look at that, someone bought a tree and dragged it home the old fashioned way." A little further along the street all he had to say was "Hmmm....." And finally he turned to Mom and said, "You know, I think I know where that tree is going."
The best tree we ever had though, didn't need any fluffing or fixing and was free...yes....you heard me right...it was free. One week before Christmas and no sign of a tree (sound familiar) and the four of us were crammed into the car of Dads pickup to do the last little bit of Christmas shopping and grocery buying before the big day. Three of us were determined that we weren't coming home without a tree. Tree lot after tree lot disappeared in the rear view mirror on the way to town. Tree lot after tree lot disappeared in the rear view mirror on the way home. Not one lot passed without being remarked upon by at least one of the female passengers. Dads blood pressure was rising...our agitation was noticeable. Finally Dad exploded with, "For Pete's sake, stop badgering me, we'll get a tree okay." Just at the corner of our street (you know, where the tree lot is) a huge truck loaded with Christmas trees up ahead of us hit a bump in the road and...you know where this is going right....a tree fell off the truck, the truck kept going, Dad stopped and threw the tree in the back and said, "There. Are you satisfied? We got a tree." BEST TREE EVER That year on boxing day Mom bought an artificial tree and we never had a real tree again.