(part 3 of 4)
I don't recall when artificial Christmas greens were first made available to the public, but I do know I never cared for them. The colors looked fake, the shapes were too perfect and there was never any evergreen scent. Even when using spray, it still smelled phony. In short, artificial wreaths, roping, sprays, trees and such have always turned me off.
I remember years ago when Dad first bought a fake tree. By then most of the white pines had branches so poorly spread about that they looked as if they were wannabees. Whenever neighbors asked if they could cut one down, not thinking about the future, we always gave them the green light. Instead of uprooting them and then replanting them after Christmas, our generosity helped deplete what we had until they were gone.
As years passed, we moved out on our own and Dad grew old. Aches and pains became common and it seemed every Christmas he couldn't do what he used to do. That's when he got a brilliant idea. He'd buy an artificial tree, wreath and roping. And not just any tree, but an aluminum one. To make matters worse, it came with a multi-colored wheel with four colored windows in it. As the wheel rotated, the colors on the tree changed. It was the gaudiest looking Christmas tree we had ever seen. But first he had to sell us.
“There would be no need to hunt and chop down any more trees,” he'd say. “We'd have it to use each year, save time stringing and removing lights and replacing burned out bulbs. Remember,” he'd remind us, “when one bulb burns out the entire string goes out. Instead, we'll have continuous changing of four beautiful Christmas colors; red, blue, yellow and green. What could be more Christmasy?” Then he'd add the clincher. “Plus, there would be no more nasty needles for mom and the girls to clean up.”
We boys felt badly for Mom, having to clean and pick up the needles from the carpet one by one, but could have cared less about our sisters. Although we weren't quite sold on an aluminum Christmas tree, we didn't protest and Dad bought one. Suddenly, all those years of hunting the “perfect” tree, cutting it down and hauling it home seemed as if that was just as much a big part of our Christmas as attending Midnight Mass.
By then I must have been in my early twenties and had already been out on my own, so I don't quite recall how long Dad had that aluminum tree and colored spinning wheel. I do recall going home for Christmas one year and it was up, so he must have had it at least four or five years. Whenever he'd ask what we thought of it, we'd never put it down or make him feel bad for buying it. Instead, we'd diplomatically let him know it was nice but not like a real tree.
When I mention diplomacy, perhaps the family comedian, my late brother, Mike, who retired after 20 year in the United States Air Force, had the best line. After returning home from a three year stint in Turkey one Christmas, Dad asked what he thought of the aluminum tree. In front of me and others, he sniffed once or twice, and then answered, “Aah, yes! There's nothing like coming home for the holidays to family, friends, the smell of cookies and pies baking, ham and turkey roasting,” he said, “and the freshly cut evergreen scent of a real aluminum Christmas tree.”
It wasn't too many years until strings of multi-colored lights and freshly cut evergreen trees permanently replaced that shiny aluminum one and its rotating color wheel.
My wife, Peggy, and I have never had an aluminum Christmas tree. Maybe some year I'll buy one. Just to bring back old Christmas memories, to have a good laugh and to share with the neighbors by replanting it in the front yard.
Next week: Christmases for our kids
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