On the Mark: An abandoned bird’s nest is out of the question

MARK STRAIN

As children, finding that perfect Christmas tree was an exciting part of the holiday season. Throughout the year we played in a deep and wonderful forest filled with a canopy of mixed pines and hardwoods. Snow was always piled high by the end of the year and we kept alert during the approaching holiday season looking for that perfect Christmas tree, waiting till nearly Christmas Day to make the final choice.

It was easier when we were younger, as distance was no object yet for my father it was a bit more challenging, especially when the snow had formed in drifts higher than our waists. Temperatures always hovered near 20 degrees and the air was dry and crisp. Under our feet the loose snow had that squeaky sound that tells you it has been cold for a very long time.

The struggle to get to our chosen tree often seemed like enough work for one day, but cutting a fresh tree at its base with a rusty handsaw in the dead of winter becomes a challenge all its own. When the task was finally accomplished and we were as tired as we thought we could be, the careful process of carrying our perfect Christmas tree to its final destination was offset by the excitement of being very close to seeing our well thought out plan unfold in our home.

Our efforts would be rewarded not only by hot cider to warm our semi-frozen bodies and the anticipated decorating that could now begin but all this was accompanied by a variety of homemade holiday treats that only materialized once a year. Every year about the time we started scouting for that perfect tree, Mom began her own special Christmas process in the kitchen.

Everything was made from scratch. A variety of aromas filled our home while she made the most delicious homemade cookies and breads. With each batch the three of us gathered round for the chance to dip our fingers into the cookie dough and afterwards taste the warm sweet results hot from the oven. Despite frequent trips to the kitchen for yet another treat, we still managed to drape our freshly cut tree with lights and ornaments.

By the next decade, however, we found our Christmas tree had changed a bit. We had moved to an area where there was no forest from which to choose our tree. For six or eight bucks we now bought them in roadside stands erected alongside fields of manicured Christmas tree farms. Rows and rows of precisely planted, trimmed and nurtured Christmas trees. For a two dollar discount you could even walk the rows and cut down your own and drag it back to your vehicle. Sometimes we got really lucky and could find one pre-decorated with an abandoned bird’s nest.

Another decade goes by and another move took place. Christmas trees were now only found on large vacant lots far from the places their initial seeds had sprouted in farmed rows. There was a mix and match of many tree varieties, something the original forest adventure rarely offered. Instead of fighting the snow, cold and exhausting haul home, trees were now available in tightly wrapped bundles and the effort to find that perfect specimen involved cutting off the plastic webbing and standing each tree up tall, trying to envision what it might look like at home.

As time has gone on, the vacant lots developed into big box parking lots offering not only a wide variety of trees at significantly higher prices, but also tree amenities such as artificial snow and even different colors. Finding an abandoned bird’s nest had become far less likely.

After-Christmas sales are a wonderful way to save and one year during such a sale the idea of an artificial tree seemed tolerable. Christmas tree buying had evolved from a forest adventure to choosing from ones now cut from a distant row on a tree farm, stacked and wrapped in plastic and even optionally covered with synthetic snow. The idea of a boxed artificial tree at a reasonable price seemed to be both practical and economical. After all, it is reusable. We took the plunge.

Part of the Christmas atmosphere is the preparation and while that has greatly changed over the years, we still nevertheless have new traditions that add to the recognition that this is a special time of year.

Finding an abandoned bird’s nest in the tree is however now out of the question.

A very Merry Christmas to everyone!

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