Gathering the tree

Tis the season and the day after Thanksgiving, when I was just a small fry, it was the custom for my dad and I to fetch the tree home for the holidays. We would usually go to a neighbor’s woodlot, – with permission – and gather up a tree each year.One year, when I was 10, my dad and I visited with an elderly neighbor across the river, and she said to take a tree out by Gravely Brook. We walked out there, and saw several trees and dad decided he wanted to try a cedar tree, as he liked the smell of them and it would not have needles to shed all over the floor. He picked out a real nice one, and we chopped it down, thru it on top of the car and headed home. Upon arriving home, we set it up in a bucket of sand and watered the sand down. The tree would sit like this for 2-3 days, so it would adjust to the warm temperatures before we would decorate it.Since we had several cats, we would be careful to cover the sand so they would not use it as a place for pooping and peeing in. A couple of days later, a strong smell of urine permeated the room, and we wondered if we had protected the dirt. We looked and we had, but we also noticed the smell was stronger in the area of the tree. Sniffing the branches, we realized that the tree smelled of urine, and after some research found out this variety of cedar would smell like that. Needless to say, the tree was escorted outside and dad and I went back and picked a balsam for the tree that year.

When I was 14, my dad was in the hospital the month of December and mom said, “you are the man of the house, and it is part of your job to find us a tree.”  It was snowing that day, the wind was a blowing from the Northeast something fierce, and the drifts were piling up to a point taller than I. Now, this was before my physical growth spurt of 6″ one fine summer, so I was still “little”. If one would call 5′-6″ “little.” I bundled up and headed out down our lane, crossed the gravel road which traversed the valley and followed the neighbor’s fence to a wood lot about a mile away, just below the ledge of limestone outcropping. The area had a creek running thru it, with marsh grass along its banks.

By this time the wind and snow had created white out conditions, and it was uphill – really! When saw to the woodlot, I made left hand turn and sought out the evergreen area. Scouring the area in front of me, I spotted a grey form not far in front of me, and when I managed a closer look, found the Xmas tree to take back home. I was not being too choosy today, as any old green tree would do. I cut it down with my trusty hatchet, yes a hatchet! – ghezz, my story – and tied a rope to the base. I then looped the rope around my waist and started back for home.

After struggling a hundred yards, I then noticed that my back trail had all but disappeared, so I headed in the direction to where the fence should be. After some angst moments the fence line was spotted thru the blowing snow, and now the path to the road was assured, and I could see the tree setting in its entire splendor in the living room corner. I dragged that pesky tree for a mile downhill and then uphill and finally made the lane to home. Walking down the country lane, I felt like an explorer returning from a great adventure. The chair beside the wood fire and heat from the pot-bellied stove in the kitchen became my resting place while I sipped hot chocolate.

My socks and pants hung on the back of the chair and steamed as the snow and ice melted off them leaving little puddles on the floor.

Now, a new family tradition started about 10 years ago in 2003, and that is game day the day after Thanksgiving. It is also our very own way of boycotting Black Friday and all the people shopping to kick off the Christmas season.

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