On a farm in northern Colorado
1940’s TO 1955
Upon the delivery of the Christmas tree to the Cactus Hill Grade School where my brothers, John and Jim, my sisters, Ginger and Elaine and I went to school in all 8 grades, preparations were going on at home to have a tree brought into the house so we could decorate it. As usual my Mom was most particular about the size and the fullness of the tree. We lived to far from the mountains to go get us one, which I think my Dad did just once – he always bought one in town at a big lot where trees by the hundreds were stored for people to compare, pick or reject until they found just the right one.
Dad became an expert at finding just the right tree after several mistrials. Bringing it home in his old pickup, for the inspection and approval of “The Mom,” he would go get his little saw, hammer and a hand full of nails and pieces of wood. He sawed off the base of the tree. He made a four legged stand and pounded the nails into the bottom of the tree so it would stand straight and not fall down. Then he twisted baleing wire (ever so handy, always) onto the base and around the tree trunk to make it secure.
Mom would spread out a big white double sheet, just in case the tree would shed some of its needles. It was placed “just so” in the corner of the living room after our Dad would ever so carefully, tote the big tree into the house so as not to shed pine needles or brush something off a shelf.
One year, because the air is so dry in Colorado, the trees tend to dry very soon and start shedding its needles, Mom had read or been told to put the tree in a bucket of sand that was moistened. So Dad proceeded to do as Mom directed…placed the bucket of sand in the corner of the living room – got the tree and stabbed and pushed (muttering under his breathe) and shoved the tree down into the wet bucket of sand…Awhaa! Success!
We all stood back to see if it was straight and “Mom approved.” Right before our eyes – the tree started to lean-lean, then flopped right out of the bucket – sand and pine needles flew everywhere ! The tree went ker-plopp and with a shiver it finally lay silent on the sheet. Dad in his utter dismay, muttering again something we did not understand, gathered up all four corners of the sheet and dragged the tree, bucket and all, out the front door. Mom ran for the big old Hoover vacuum cleaner. We were pretty little and I cannot really remember if Dad salvaged the tree or he had to go tree hunting again. I smile at the looks that he gave Mom and the one stern expression on Moms face.
Finally, the tree was “just so” in the corner – the next move was for Dad to get a step stool, put it in the closet, reach way back in the darkness and pull out the big box of Christmas tree decorations. By then the “fluff and fur” and had died down and we all had fun putting the lights on and miles of rope, tied together in various lengths. My favorite was putting the ornaments in specific place on the branches. A few years we put tinsel on the tree to Moms utter disgust. She did not like the mess they made and how they tended to grab you if you walked to close to the tree, because of the static dry air. I have never bought tinsel and probably never will ! I see it is available again !
Tree decorated, lights twinkling, it was time for a glass of milk with Dad. Sometimes Mom made hot cocoa – hot milk – cocoa and sugar stirred until all was dissolved. It was so good. Dad had his glass of milk with chocolate cake mashed into the glass. If he had hot cocoa he would have some of Moms cookies lined up in front of him and he would “dunk” them in his cup of cocoa. We all followed suite, trying to “slurp” a little louder than the other. My Dad was the loudest “slurpper.” Mom would act like that was not the “thing to do” and tried to have a stern look on her face, but I think I detected a smile once in a while!
Next week: Making popcorn balls for Santa to give away at the Christmas pageant.