Hunt for the Tree

I’ve been reading this month about a collective move toward artificial Christmas trees.  Of course fake trees have been around since the 1940s, and I must say I’m a huge fan of the silver aluminum ones positioned next to the hi-fi.

I suppose the ease of pulling the tree down from the attic to decorate at one’s leisure has its merit. Today I juxtapose that image with a memory of my family trudging through the snow one year to cut a tree from the woods near Montpelier, James Madison’s home in Virginia. The tree was prickly and uneven, and it was heavy to pull through all that snow.


At the time, it was just another one of Mom’s crazy outing ideas, a daytime activity as we prepared for Christmas at our mountain home in the Blue Ridge mountains. But as I survey my Christmases past it is a day we all remember now with fondness.

We drove into the woods that day because cutting a tree had become a habit. I grew up on Longview Tree Farm in Newtown, Connecticut.  My father, a successful businessman, had the heart of a farmer, from his vegetable garden and berry bushes, to his chickens and eventually Christmas trees; all in our backyard.


He tended those trees all year, shearing and pruning when the time was right.  He hauled buckets of water out to each one during summer dry spells. Of course the pay-off came the day after Thanksgiving.  By the time those trees were big enough to sell, I was big enough to have my own family.  We would drive to Connecticut from Virginia and swing into action behind a picnic table in the garage.

Everyone had a job; my mother’s being wreath maker and working the handmade clamp apparatus my dad had rigged up for this purpose.  My young daughter was the clerk and my two young sons helped folks with the different tree types, eventually progressing to getting that tree on top of the car. I was in charge of lunch; my husband in charge of charm.

Now that my father has passed away and my mother moved to Florida, those years are but a memory. But they were such an integral part of my children’s early years.  I’m glad that memory will stay with them, especially as they look into the not-so-distant future and think about their own families. Or maybe it’s just me looking ahead. 

Real Christmas trees it will be for this gang.