The Tree in the Forest: In search of a Christmas evergreen

Of all the traditions a parent could follow while raising children, getting the annual Christmas tree is probably one of the most memorable. No two seasons are ever exactly the same, and the stages the kids go through change significantly from year to year.

Getting a Christmas tree in Central New York is an ever-changing event. Back in 2004, we tried to wait out the snowless weather. The entry in my journal on Dec. 12 complained if we waited any longer it would be Christmas. The day turned out to be rain-free without any lines.

Generally, I like to stay at places at least as long as the time it takes to arrive there. So, with about a half-hour to get to Granger’s Christmas Tree Farm in Mexico, I felt we should at least make an effort to walk through the fields. My father-in-law, being a bit older than us, found his tree two rows in and began sawing away. The hubby immediately got excited, but no. I encouraged him to keep searching to get more out of the experience.

The tree we found was perfect and full. Each year I name our trees and that one was Majestic. Unfortunately, a 150-pound tree is very difficult to drag without snow to glide on, especially since it hung over the plastic sled. And it felt like a quarter-mile from civilization. It was covered in mud by the time we made it back to the barn to pay. Then, once we were home, we had to prop it up and get out the hose to clean the thing off. Soaking wet, it weighed even more and was impossible to shake dry, especially since it chose then to start raining. So, it froze again while we waited for it to stop dripping.

We were also new to estimating size. It may have looked modest while outside among other trees, but once we finally got it indoors, we realized either our house was incredibly short, or the tree was impossibly tall. Too late, we discovered Majestic was a nine-foot monster as it left a huge mark across the stucco finish when we pulled it upright on the short end of the cathedral ceiling to the high end. After it was anchored in, it thawed and relaxed, growing wider and wider. It just barely fit in its designated area near the doorway. That was the season we had problems maneuvering each time we came in and left the house. A ladder was necessary to add the angel, and the mark on the ceiling was a constant reminder of that Christmas adventure for over two decades.

Then there was the year my husband was on the floor with the baby, Danielle, during tummy time when a huge, black spider awoke in the warm heat of the house and made its way across the floor next to him. Stomach to sprinting in two seconds flat!

For the longest time I worked every other weekend, so the month of December was limited for holiday traditions. Mother Nature usually had different ideas for those dates. We’ve been on open wagon rides in minus 10 degrees, bundled up so only our eyes were exposed, looking a lot like Ralphie’s little brother, Randy, from A Christmas Story. Some years had two feet of fresh snow we thought we’d lose the kids in (I think winter hats with red flags on top would really sell in those conditions.) A few mild winters have had us out only in thick sweaters, posing for pictures as if we were advertising for L.L. Bean.

Trimming the tree has also had its challenges along the way. It only takes one time to realize grooming the branches will result in oozing sap where they’ve been cut, so now I only wear old clothes. We also make sure the tree stand is the appropriate size, and bungee cord our tree to a so it won’t fall. Again.

My biggest challenge used to be allowing the kids to decorate the tree, or more accurately, the same branch. This was done until it was weighed down with silver and gold, crying uncle. I’m particular about spacing and, well, children aren’t. To be fair, they are only so tall. I give a lot of credit to my mother, who appreciates precision, too. I remember when my brother and I were little and would run to her to be given the next bulb or ribbon to be hung. If she “adjusted” them later, I never caught on. Anyway, I’m much better these days, knowing how quickly the years turn toddlers into teens. Everyone can marvel over the fresh pine smell and perfect needles, and comment on the homemade ornaments from Years Past that will always adorn our family evergreen.

No matter the weather, we’ve strengthened our family as we’ve laughed in the fresh air, searched, and found the perfect tree, and made lasting memories.

Cutting and caring for a fresh tree

  • Be sure to wear boots, gloves, and old clothes. Don’t forget the camera!
  • Decide on the best tree for your family.
  • Choose a tree with a straight trunk.
  • Saw off a straight edge, and remove bottom branches with a saw so the tree will fit firmly in the stand. Avoid trimming the sides of the trunk to fit the stand; have the stand fit the trunk.
  • Shake off excess needles and snow before taking indoors.
  • If the tree is pre-cut, use a saw to take off about an inch at the base to remove the seal the sap made over the initial cut.
  • Once in the stand, secure without overtightening. Fill the water well as soon as possible. The temperature of the water doesn’t matter. The tree will drink the most the first few days, so replenish as needed.
  • Keep trees away from heat sources and use low heat producing lights.
  • Keeping the tree in a cooler room and using miniature lights will reduce the drying of the tree.
  • Evergreens are 100% biodegradable so don’t forget to recycle!


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