Christmas Memories: Hunting for the Perfect Tree

Many years ago, in the late 70s, when I was around 12, my younger brother, a neighbourhood friend and I were hiking through the woods as we often did. I can’t recall why we were out there on the trail leading towards the railway tracks on this particular day. Sometimes it was just where we walked. I can say it wasn’t to go fishing at the river that ran under the railway because it was mid-December, and everything was frozen solid. There was more than a foot of snow on the ground. However, the path had been beaten down somewhat from our constant travels, and the light layer of snow that had fallen since the previous day didn’t slow our pace.

More than a mile into the woods, we spotted a beautiful evergreen. To my eyes, it was the perfect Christmas tree. My brother and friend agreed. Since we had yet to get a tree for the house, we decided to bring this one home.

We always carried hatchets back then, so we chopped down the tree, swung it onto the trail and began the long trek. Given the tree’s size and our size, we took turns dragging it. Once we got onto the old farmer’s road, which was partially grown in from lack of use, there was room to get two people on the tree, one on either side.

The tramping through the snow and dragging the tree for a great distance tuckered us out and by the time we got home, we were exhausted.

Mom and Dad weren’t home, but my brother, who was 17 years older than me, came outside and took a look at our find. “That’s the ugliest tree I’ve ever seen,” he said.

We ignored him, propped it up against the house and went off to play. When I returned a few hours later, I dragged Dad outside to admire the tree we’d found.

But there was no tree leaning against the house where I’d left it. Instead pieces of branches and sawdust littered the snow. My oldest brother had taken the chainsaw and removed the limbs and cut up the trunk for the wood stove.

Fast forward to my own kids, and when they hunt for the perfect tree, I don’t disagree with them. We get it. To be honest, I can make any tree look good. It doesn’t matter how many holes it has from missing branches or how misshaped it is. They all smell the same.

Last year, my oldest son brought home a tree from the lot his friend had been clearing to build a house on. His siblings razzed him and said the tree was ugly. I told him it was perfect, and together, we set it up.

This year, my youngest chopped down a tree from the property of his friend’s place. They have many acres of farmland surrounded by woods where the kids go biking, hiking and camping.

Before he had left the house, I explained the difference between a fir (soft needles that are flat) and a spruce (stiff needles that are four-sided). I’d take either except the cat spruce, which had been accidentally put up in my family’s home back in the mid-80s (oh, what an aroma). However, there’s someone in the house sensitive to, let’s call it, tree scents. Spruce has a stronger smell, so we go with the fir.

My son said he understood, and then he came home with a spruce. It was truly a beautiful tree, and I didn’t want to throw it away or squash his good intentions, so I put it on the deck and adjusted the lights to go onto the tree. Now we have a lovely lit tree to greet us at our door.


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