Dec 10, 2006

On Christmas Trees and the Importance of Traditions

My family hunting the perfect treeMy family, hunting for the perfect tree

(Toledo, OH) Were it up to me, my family would each year dust off the artificial tree we have buried somewhere in the basement. Luckily, in our house my wife better understands the importance of tradition and family activities than I, and so we have developed a ritual over the last decade of traipsing out to the woods to select the annual Christmas tree.

Our favorite destination to procure said arboreal icon is a family-owned business called The Farm, which is located in Whiteford, MI on Samaria Road between Secor and Summerfield Roads. They are friendly folks who will help you hoist the tree onto your vehicle, and provide saws and string. They also sell day lilies during the warmer weather.

The chosen victim awaits its sacrificial fate

Part of the tradition involves the process by which our children select the tree. This year we got a late start, as two of our progeny are away at college (BGSU and Columbus State), and they insisted we wait until they could participate. Some years the debate became rather heated, as factions would form over the merits of the "perfect" tree.

This year, though, my oldest son found the ultimate tree after only a few minutes of walking through the candidates, and there was little opposition to his selection of the 6'8" pine tree that we claimed.

Setting sun in a pine forestThe setting sun, for me, was a melancholy metaphor highlighting the fact that we likely have but a few years left to this tradition, at least with all of our children present. Soon they will be starting families of their own, and we will lose the ability to gather them all together for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon.

At times lately I am a bit forlorn over the family activities I have missed over the years, as I sometimes allowed business obligations to take precedence over family time. I vowed a few years ago that I would never again let work edge out my time with my family, but there is always a pang in my heart for memories I missed during my years of owning retail businesses.

A piece of advice to any new parents reading this: if your job interferes with your family life, find a new one. There are millions more just like it, but you only get one chance at a family. Well, unless you are Tom Cruise or some other celebrity idiot, but I would wager that what passes for "family" in Tinseltown is a shallow imitation of true family life.

Decorating the Christmas treeDecorating the Christmas tree

After the perfunctory half-hour of wrestling with the tree to trim branches and get it to fit the stand, our Christmas tree was ready to decorate. Every kid has a few favorite ornaments, and there were plenty of memories in the boxes of assorted decorations. Several children paused to remember my wife's mother, who passed away several years ago, since they had ornaments she gave them.

If you look closely in the last photo, the urn that holds her ashes is in the upper righthand corner, on top of the piano; I hope that it is not maudlin to suggest that she was there in spirit as well.

As the Christmas songs played, we gathered together for an hour to continue a family tradition. Our older kids were all gone by 8:00 pm (hey - it was a Saturday night!), but the ties that bind us together grew a little stronger last evening.

As they drove away to their various social activities, I was sad that the evening ended so soon, but gladdened that my wife makes sure that we do not forget our traditions.


McCaskey said...

There are certain indicators that clue people in as to what couples do that establishes them as quality parents.
I'd say the importance of your college-aged children wanting so badly to part of the Christmas tree-decorating tradition speaks most highly of you and your wife.
I'm sure it will be part of your kids' holiday tradition when they're parents.
Congrats and I only wish there were a few million more like you.

microdot said...

Our Christmas tradition is always a drive up in the Causse where there are thousands of scraggly juniper trees and we find one that leans "just right" then I saw it down.
Then comes the ritual of the tiny lights, I patiently untangle the lines for a few matter how hard you try to put them away neatly each year they never stay that way.
The walnuts we picked and cracked get made into the cookies my wife learned to make from her neighbor in Seattle when she was a little girl.
These things never change!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful story Mike, but isn't it Ottawa Lake, not Whiteford, Michigan? Whiteford is the school district.


Hooda Thunkit said...

With my brothers scattered and our children scattered too, just my SIL's we usually have a quiet Christmas at home.

This year our daughter and her husband are no longer within driving distance so we'll be doing something new for us this year.

I'll try to write about it when it has all played out ;-)

We've been putting up artificial trees for so long that these artificial trees (they're very good artificial trees) are now traditional for us. That is, when we put them up. More on this later...

historymike said...

I hope you are right, McCaskey. Thanks for the compliment!

historymike said...

Agreed about the lights, Microdot. Something strange happens after they get boxed up.

historymike said...

You might well be right, Jason. I'll have to do a little digging.

historymike said...

Agreed, Hooda, that it's the symbolic nture of the tree - and not the tree itself - that matters.

Plus, once you shell out the bucks for a decent artificial tree, you are good for twenty years or so.

Longer, if you take good care of the thing.

The Screaming Nutcase said...

My wife is deeply allergic to all things evergreen--no more live trees for me. :( I'm quite jealous.