Sunday, December 10, 2006

Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

This morning I was sitting in my chair quilting on Autumn Walk and watching Sunday Morning on TV. They had a segment on real vs artificial (they called them permanent) Christmas trees. It was recorded in MI.

Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth (known as Little Bavaria) was the setting for half of the segment. This store is the size of 1 1/2 football fields, is open all year and has everything related to Christmas. They have over 6,000 styles of ornaments with half of them being exclusive designs of Bonner's. The TV program showed some of the trees that they sell. Half of them are now prelit and have hinged branches. They range from the old fashioned ones with big bulbs to the super modern designer ones with high tech bulbs. I usually go to Frankenmuth at least once a year to have a chicken dinner and listen to the accordion music but I haven't walked through Bronner's in a few years. I must do that again next summer. With all the auto, water and nature places, it always amazes me that Frankenmuth is the most popular tourist place in Michigan. To me, it is just a neat nearby town.

The second part of the program segment was set on a tree farm in Armada. My Great Aunt Rose lived in Armada and made wonderful quilts. She died over 40 years ago and I really wish I had one of her quilts. Her son lived with her and worked nights. He came home one morning and found a finished quilt on the table with a note where to donate it. He checked on his mother and found she had died in her sleep. Isn't that the perfect way to end life here on earth?

Back to the trees. The farm on the TV program was typical of the many family-owned tree farms in Michigan. They loan you a hand saw to cut your own tree (or they will do it for you). Then they put the tree on a machine to shake all the loose needles off. They will also drill a hole in the bottom of the trunk to make it easier to put the tree in a stand and finally run it through a machine that puts a net over it to make it fit in or on your car or truck. I'm sure many States have such places but for you city folk, this is where your trees come from. I am now in Florida and have often wondered how fresh the real trees I see for sale here are. On the TV news the other day they were showing a large truck being opened. The trees that were inside had been cut in Michigan and still had snow on their branches. With today's transportation, at least some of the trees are fresher than I thought.

As a child, we always had a tree but we bought it from a lot. It's funny but I don't remember decorating it and, although I have so many things from my original family, I think the only thing I have from the tree are some old fashioned strings of bulbs.

I remember the first tree my DH and I had. We had only been married a few months and I was pregnant with our first child. We lived in an apartment and it didn't seem practical to get a tree. But I looked at them as I walked by the nearby lot. Finally just before Christmas, when they had the stands, lights and bulbs on sale in the Ben Franklin Store, I bought the decorations and a tree. It was 1959 and I remember the man sold me the tree for $1.

For the next many years, the whole family went to a tree farm and cut our tree. This included a wagon ride to the field and hot chocolate and a cookie afterwards. Sometimes they would have a fire going in the field to keep warm. We would all wander around looking for the perfect tree. DH liked short needled trees. Everyone always teased me about wanting a "Charlie Brown" tree. DH also liked to get one a little too tall and cut it off to the right height. It was a major event to get the tree up straight and select the best side to be toward the room. We put on lots of lights and garlands around and around. Then the bulbs and finally lots of tinsel that was put on one ice sickle (sp?) at a time. What wonderful trees they were.

With two daughters born just a year apart, I remember putting the unbreakable ornaments near the bottom. Even so the tree got tipped over. The inexpensive stand was not that stable so DH fixed that. He nailed it to the floor. A few years later a cat adopted us. She was pregnant and that Christmas we had kittens to enjoy the tree. I think cats always believe the tree is put up just for them and the water in the stand is much better than what they drink in their dish during the rest of the year. That year the fragile ornaments, including many that the children had made themselves, were put higher up. The kittens climbed the trunk but not out on the branches. You can be sure that tree was nailed down.

I no longer put up a tree but I sure have some great memories.

I loved Libby's (simplylibby) description of her childhood Christmas memories so much that I've gone back to read it over and over. I'm sure you would love it too.

1 comment:

Libby said...

Oh Katie, going out on a wagong with hot chocolate and cookies to get your tree sounds just perfect *s* Early in our marriage buying ornaments, etc. was just not in the budget. For the first 3 years we waited for my mom to come to visit us. She packed all her ornaments in her car and brought them to our home. Because it was late in the season, we could usually find an inexpensive 'Charlie Brown' tree and decorate it to the hilt with all the red lights, balls, bows and candy canes. I used to think they were the grandest trees of all -- now I look at the photos and see them as they really were ... but the memory remains grand. I like it that way *s* Thanks for sharing your memories.