By Dee Cabaniss Pederson
Christmas – it’s just a happy word, isn’t it? You kind of have to smile when you say it. I have so many memories of the most wonderful time of the year that I had some difficulty settling on any one in particular. But after a full minute, I decided there is one Christmas tradition filled with excitement, frustration, joy, and a bit of rage – the acquisition of the perfect Christmas tree.
Growing up on a dairy farm, we had plenty of wooded areas and fencerows where Eastern red cedar trees thrived, and these were always our targets. The youngest of three girls, the idea of going tromping out in the woods to find the perfect tree was thrilling to me. Daddy had learned finding the tree was a very time-consuming endeavor, for it seemed to take hours to travel from pasture to pasture, scouring all the wooded parts of our sprawling farm. He usually left the tree-getting event in Mama’s capable and our sometimes-not-so-capable hands because of time (and likely patience, but he never told us that), but he was always there to see our perfect tree and make sure it got settled in its rightful place in the living room.
Each tree-finding trip started out the same – pile up in the pickup truck, ride down to the most likely tract to have a good selection. Then the questions started: “What about this one?” “How tall do you think this one is?” “Will it fit?” “This one’s PERFECT!” These and many other exclamations and questions could be heard throughout the woods – the women in my family have voices that carry.
After agreeing on the perfect tree, we commenced the cutting down. I’ll confess I don’t remember much about this part of the tree-getting experience because I was a little bitty thing then and not expected to take a turn with the saw.
But I do remember thinking most times that it looked much bigger on the ground than when it was standing. This thought was confirmed when we got the tree home and dragged it to the front door for Daddy to get it in the stand and place it in the house. Invariably, he’d say, “You think that’s gonna fit in the house?” or simply shake his head, smiling a little. The tree was always, always, always too big, and the ceilings in our house were 12 footers. So every year our perfect tree had some sort of operation – the top or bottom would be trimmed off, often leaving bare patches somewhere in the middle. But they were all perfect to me. One year, we had to get two trees because the first one got trimmed so much it ended up being a Christmas bush, and we decorated it as well as the second tree that took center stage.
I’ve done my best to continue the annual Christmas tree search in my adult life. I’ve dragged balsam firs across snowy hillsides in upstate New York and purchased Fraser fir from the local lot across from our southeastern New York house. Nothing is the same as an Eastern red cedar, though, and when we moved back to Georgia the cedar tree tradition continued albeit the search doesn’t take long at all at a tree farm. And I’ve taken Daddy’s place with the task of actually getting the tree in the stand and upright in the house. My daughter Calla will say there is some frustration on my part each year, but it always turns out all right…eventually. One thing is certain, though: All the effort expended getting the perfect tree has never been wasted because it is always the perfect tree.
Christmas tree – see, you smiled when you said that, didn’t you?