‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
Christmas Eve in our house was always a special night. It was also a family night and a night of readiness and preparedness. Included for us in the preparations was going together as a family to buy a fresh tree.
I was the youngest, but I still had my say in the selection, just as when we trimmed the tree I was always allowed to place a ball or two and some tinsel on the lower branches.
Years later that custom of buying and trimming the tree on Christmas Eve got me into big trouble. Our oldest daughter — who actually was due on Christmas Day — arrived two weeks earlier on the 11th. That made it difficult for my wife and I to buy the tree together, so it became my sole responsibility.
We were living in lower Manhattan then in a development called Stuyvesant Town.
On my way home from the office that afternoon I passed a number of tree vendors on the street. My wife showed her surprise and disappointment that I had not brought a tree home because she was anxious to have it trimmed as family was coming early on Christmas Day.
No problem. I assured her that there were lots of trees available in our neighborhood and I thought I would have dinner first.
It was about 8 o’clock when I went back out. To my dismay no vendors were still out. I retraced my route all the way back to my office, but saw nary a tree. It was as though the earth had swallowed them up or perhaps replanted them. I knew I was in big trouble.
Someone up there must have been looking out for me because as I was wending my way back I saw a tree laying outside a supermarket. Granted it wasn’t very tall and it certainly wasn’t very full, but at that point to me it looked as good as the one in Rockefeller Plaza.
To my wife and to all of our relatives who came to visit us on Christmas Day it looked like what it was, a scrawny oversized remnant. I have never lived that one down.
But never one to learn from my mistakes, we continued to wait till Christmas Eve to purchase our trees. However, my wife always accompanied me and we usually found a tree to our mutual liking although we agreed that finding the perfect tree was more than a mere challenge. On several occasions my wife has used her surgical skills to create the perfect tree that we had failed to locate or that nature had failed to produce.
You should be aware that our definition of the perfect tree differs. To my wife it is a balsam pine about 8 feet high, well rounded and full. To me it is anything green that both fits on top of my car and into my budget.
One year, in pursuit of that perfect tree, we traveled to three counties in suburban Maryland till we finally found one that suited her taste and my pocketbook, although I failed to factor in the cost of gas. In another year, we searched so far and wide that when I did factor in the gas, I also had to factor in an on-the-road dinner for the family. What a bargain!
We spent only one Christmas in Rhode Island and to help the state’s economy as well as our own, we were determined to buy a Rhode Island grown tree. Since it is our country’s smallest state, we averaged down on the amount of gas needed to locate, purchase and bring our perfect tree home.
Iowa, on the other hand, was as spacious as Rhode Island was not. Finding the perfect tree there could have taken days, but we agreed to stay within Polk County, which was larger than Rhode Island. The first year we bought a tree that we could plant outside in the front yard — a decision that I regretted every time I mowed the lawn. Enter our first artificial tree. Problem solved, for a year or two.
And now in our condominium here, we have a magnificent tree in the lobby. This time it has been my wife who feels that with our limited space, we really don’t need our own. However we do have two artificial ones in our storage room, one pretty much trimmed.
Then again, it is Christmas Eve.
So Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa and Seasons Greetings to All.
We are off to find the perfect tree!