December 22nd, some time in the 80’s….
I was a teenager, living with my dad and step mom. Both of them had been very busy running a business, trying to make ends meet. There had been no time for Christmas trees and decorations. The rest of my brothers and I had been telling Dad about getting a Christmas tree, and he kept saying the same thing. “Soon, son, soon…”. Well, soon turned into a couple of days before Christmas eve, and….nothing….
“This is the saddest Christmas ever.”
“This really sucks!”
“All my friends have Christmas trees.”
There were other comments as well, not just from the kids, but from my step mom as well. I guess the guilt trip finally got to Dad, and…
“Gosh darn it, we are going out tonight and get a tree!”
So we all piled into the family car, and drove off in search of the perfect tree.
Well, if you have to get a tree so close to Christmas, I am sure you can imagine that the definition of the word “perfect” might need some adjustment. The trip started out with the idea of getting a great big tree, a mammoth expression of our love for the holiday. Images of a huge towering tree taking up the entire living room, with hundreds of lights, and endless number of ornaments hanging from our acquisition soon began to change and morph as we went from location to location. It was getting late, and none of us had eaten dinner, but still no tree.
Dad was getting frustrated. I am sure he was aware that he would be blamed for ruining Christmas at this point. Something had to be done.
“Ok there is one other place we can go.”
We get to the last place in town we knew that was selling trees. It was almost closing time. The employees were not exactly happy to see us. But Gosh darn it, we were buying a tree. I won’t tell you when we got to the place that our hopes were lifted. If I remember correctly there were a total of five or six trees left, if you could actually call them trees. They were drying out already, and had few branches. Think Charlie Brown Christmas. We looked over our choices, weighed our options. Dad moves to the back and finds one of them.
“This is the one!”
“It is kind of crooked.”
“I will fix that.”
Did he actually say that? Fix it? Oh boy. So he pays for the tree, and it gets mounted on top of our car, and we are home bound. We start to lift our spirits. We have a tree! My step mom starts to talk about the ornaments she is going to bring out, Dad says he has some lights in the garage, and we start singing, carrying on. This is going to be the best Christmas ever!
Then one of us asks a question.
“Dad do you have a stand?”
Long pause. Silence. A small bead of sweat is now visible on Dad’s brow.
“We don’t need a stand. I will make one!”
Now we are home, and mom is gathering the ornaments and lights while we bring in the tree. Dad is now holding the tree upright, pondering his next move. Again, there is a long silence while we all await Dad’s answer to the whole stand issue.
“Ok, you go into the back yard and get that bucket. And the rest of you, get as many rocks as you can. Hurry up!”
Oh boy. Within minutes, we gather a few hundred pounds of rock (or at least it seemed that way), and a 5 gallon paint bucket. Dad directs one of us to hold the bucket, while he picks up the tree and places it in the bucket. Then he tells us to fill the remaining space with rocks while he holds the tree.
“Gosh darn it, son hurry up!” He did not really say gosh, nor did he say darn it.
“It’s still crooked!”
Dad steps back to look at his creation. But after a couple of seconds, the tree starts to lean over, then begins to fall, and we all rush to hold it up. Apparently the rocks are not enough.
“Ok kids, take the wheelbarrow and fill it with dirt. Hurry!”
Within minutes, the bucket was packed with dirt along with the rocks. Surely now it will hold right? Nope. Still leans when you let it go. There are frowns all around now, and Dad gets the stinking feeling Christmas won’t happen unless something is done quick. MacGyver suddenly makes his appearance.
“Ok go to the garage and get that spool of wire….”
“And the tool box, and some nails!”
At this point I was pretty scared. Was this the Christmas we all end up in the hospital? How was my step mom going to explain this to the ER doctor.
“Then my husband got some nails…”
So Dad tells us to move the tree over, away from the wall. Out comes the hammer and nails, and Dad strategically pounds two nails into the wall. He then cuts a long strand of wire, wrapping it around the trunk of the tree. With the tree back in its place, he stretches the wire tight and then ties each end of the wire to the nails. Now – miraculously – our tree stays in place. Look mom, no hands!
We all step back, surveying our accomplishment. We are smiling now, and pride can clearly be seen in our faces. Yeah, it’s a screwed up, dis-functional tree, but it’s our tree, and Christmas was back on!
“It’s still crooked!”
My little brother got a swift slap up side the head for that crack. No one wanted to hear that right now. We were all too tired, sweaty, and full of tree sap to deal with any more set backs. Besides, we all knew Dad had a level in the tool box, and if he brought that thing out, we would be at this all night.
The rest of the night involved lights, ornaments, hot chocolate, singing, horsing around, and it turned out to be one of my favorite Christmas memories.
Psst…..That Christmas tree was there until March….