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Special Section Archives The Altamont Enterprise, November 18, 2010
Needling for the perfect tree spruced up our home and spread glee
By Anne Hayden
Few symbols represent the holiday season better than the Christmas tree.
Not only does the evergreen tree look like Christmas, it smells like Christmas. That’s why it was practically a sin in my household, growing up, to even consider bringing an artificial tree into our home. My dad would never hear of it, no matter how much my mom complained about the mess the needles made on the hardwood floor.
Not only did we have to get a real tree, we had to go to a farm, choose a tree that was still in the ground, and cut it down.
This was always a hugely anticipated event, because, after we traipsed through the cold, suffering numb fingers and toes, we got to blast Christmas music, decorate the tree with a mixed bunch of ornaments my parents had collected over the past few decades including antiques inherited from my great-grandmother, and clothespin reindeer crafted in pre-school and eat sugar cookies.
Now that my two sisters and I have grown up and moved out, it’s up to us to create our own Christmas traditions, and it’s little wonder that part of mine involves cutting down my own Christmas tree.
The first two holiday seasons I spent with my fiance, Nick, did not involve traipsing through the woods with a saw; instead, we went and picked out pre-cut trees. They did the job, but there was something not quite satisfying about the process. Last year, I insisted we find a place that would let us cut down our own tree.
At the Van Etten Christmas Tree Farm, in the Helderbergs, we got to do a lot more than just find the perfect tree. We got lucky the weekend we decided to start our hunt, and had a fresh snowfall of more than a foot. When we got to the farm, we were loaded onto a wagon full of hay bales for seating, and driven back into the woods where our choice of trees awaited us. I’m not up-to-date on the different types of trees, but I do know all different species are grown on the Van Etten’s land; Douglas firs and Norway spruces, Scotch pines and balsams.
Being the competitive person I am, I leapt off the truck and hurried my way up and down the rows of fragrant trees, in a state of semi-panic, worried that some of the other customers would find the best tree before I could.
It didn't take me long to spot my tree a short, round, perfectly-shaped specimen sitting abandoned among the stumps of trees that had already been chosen. I eagerly called out to Nick, who was taking his ample time and wandering aimlessly, but he proclaimed the tree too small. I argued that it was just the right size we wouldn't have to cut off any extra when we got home, and we don't own many ornaments yet.
But, Nick is nothing if not contemplative, so we spent another hour or so marching through the woods, examining trees of all different shapes and sizes. We couldn’t decide on one. They were all too tall, or missing branches, or turning brown.
Meanwhile, I fought down the anxiety rising inside me at the thought of someone else taking the little tree we had left behind. I finally convinced Nick to take another look at it, and, after a brief period of being lost in the maze of trees, we stumbled upon it again. Someone else was eyeing it from further down the row.
I ran as fast as my legs could carry me through the snow, and stood next to it holding a branch. I knew Nick was sold after he saw the pleading look on my face.
He joked that it looked like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, and I quickly reminded him how beautiful Charlie Brown’s tree looked after it was decorated.
It didn't take long for Nick to saw through the small trunk; in fact, the tree was so small, he was able to hold it up with one arm after he cut it down. We carried it back to the truck, which wound its way back to the parking area.
While the tree was tied to the roof of our car, we went into the snack shack and warmed up with cookies, coffee, and hot chocolate.
Once we got the tree home, we discovered that it really was perfect. The only snag we hit was when the trunk was so small around we had to wedge cardboard between it and the tree-stand fasteners to keep it upright. It held all of our ornaments, and all of our presents fit nicely underneath. The best part was that, every time we looked at it, we remembered the day we went to pick it out.
We’re already planning a day to go back this year. Nick’s lobbying for a slightly bigger tree, but I just tell him that the tree that catches my eye is the one we’re getting.