November 15th is the beginning of hunting season here in Michigan. For many a young person, it is a thrill to go with their father (or mother) as they hunt for deer. Growing up in Highland Park, I never went on a big hunt for a deer. However, once a year Dad would take me on a great hunting expedition. We didn’t hunt for deer, but for that elusive Christmas tree that was cheap, fresh and good-looking.
Our Christmas tree hunt began a couple of weeks before Christmas. We would get in the car and begin the hunt. We would go from place to place in order find our prize tree. The perfect Christmas tree was usually a Douglas Fir. It also couldn’t be tall, but it could be a bit fat. Dad would check every tree from head to toe to make sure it would fulfill his specifications. Dad would then barter with the salesman. Once he had his price, he triumphantly would place the tree in the trunk of the car. Dad always believed in big cars with big trunks; so transporting the tree was no problem.
After buying the tree, the fun had just begun. I don’t know if there was such a thing as a tree stand in the fifties or sixties, but nobody told Dad about buying one. Our tree stand was a fairly large pan with a cement cinder block in the center of it. Dad would cut the bottom of the tree to try to fit it into a hole in the cinder block. With great time and effort, he would eventually coerce the tree into the block. Success was in his grasp, but the tree was not yet stable. Then Dad’s scientific mind would go to work. He would use wire and nails in strategic places in the wall to make the tree straight.
The tree was now up, but there was yet the “fun” of decorating the tree. The lights were always stored wrapped around wrapped up newspapers. In theory, this would keep the lights from tangling up. However, every year the lights would somehow become tangled while being stored. The lights were also a special challenge because if one light was out, the whole string of lights would be out. Then, we would have to find by trial and error the one light that didn’t work! Eventually, the lights would go up. The bulbs would go on next. These would have to be put on carefully because many of our bulbs were easily broken if one of them would fall to the ground.
My favorite part of decorating was putting the tinsel on the tree. I would put the tinsel on in bunches. I always thought the more tinsel on the tree, the better. However, looking back, I could see that my parents were quite patient with my sense of beauty. When I was away, Mom would repair my messy job with the tinsel.
Finally, the grand finale was putting the angel on top of the tree. This angel was the highlight of the tree. To me, the angel was beautiful, and It looked great sitting on top of the tree. I have never found this angel again after all these years.
With the completion of the Christmas tree, I was now ready for Christmas, Santa Claus and the gifts. Looking back, I never really appreciated all that my Dad and Mom did to make Christmas a joyous occasion for the whole family. They not only sacrificed with all their work on the tree, but in many other ways. I wish I could call them and thank them for all that they did, but that will not be possible.