Monday, December 16, 2013

Our First Christmas Tree ~ My Column from Sunday's paper

I sat on the couch daydreaming this afternoon as I often do when I’m clueless about a topic for my column. 

Experience has taught me that the slight buzzing in my ears is only temporary and caused by an approaching deadline whizzing toward me. It’s a familiar sound that I often hear when I have writer’s block. 

My mind was a thousand miles away when suddenly a cardinal alighted on a lower limb of
The Watson Christmas Tree 2013
the white pine just outside our window. He looked the size of a pigeon, and was as red as a summer sunset.

I placed the laptop on the couch, and stepped closer to get a better look. His mate was a few branches up and she was fussing at him about something. I’m guessing he hadn’t collected enough Christmas berries for all the kids, or something.

I leaned close enough for my head to touch the frosty glass and from that vantage point, I still couldn’t see the top of the white pine.

A memory drifted back to me like a rerun of The Andy Griffith Show. It was of the day Jilda and I bought that tree. That little white pine was the first Christmas tree we had in our new house. Well, the house was new in December of 1983, which was thirty years ago.

It’s difficult wrapping my mind around the fact that we’ve lived here for 30 years, but the squeak in my knees when I stand, and the wrinkles around my eyes don’t lie.

I remember fretting during the first weeks of December that year because we’d had a lot of rain and we weren’t sure the builders would finish the house in time for Christmas. As it turns out, the weather gods smiled and we had a week of good weather. Our wish to spend Christmas in our new house came true.

The yard was as bare as a ball field then, and it seemed a shame to have a cut tree that we threw away. 

We decided to look for one we could plant after the holidays.

We found our white pine at a local nursery and although it cost a little more, we decided it was worth it. Though we didn’t realize it at the time, we gave ourselves a gift that kept on giving.

Buying that first living Christmas tree started a tradition that we’ve kept alive for the past 30 years.

Trial and error has taught us that some live trees are beautiful during Christmas, but can’t survive the harsh summers in the south.

We’ve had good luck with pine, cedar, hemlock and Leyland cypress, so we stick to those varieties because they can live in hot weather. The white pine is now well over forty-feet tall. 

We had company last weekend and the conversation turned to Christmas trees. They found it hard to imagine that the huge trees in our yard once stood in front of our great-room windows, with lights, ornaments, crystal icicles and presents underneath. 

Standing here today with a frosty forehead, I smiled at the memory of that first tree, and I realized as I sat back down on the couch I had a topic for this week’s column.

I hope remembering your first Christmas tree brings a smile to your face too.

Merry Christmas.

Read more: Daily Mountain Eagle - Our first Christmas tree 


  1. Anonymous9:19 PM

    I wish we could have had live--& still living--trees!!

  2. I remember my first Christmas tree, it was so small but my oldest loved it :)

  3. that's a lovely text:-) x

  4. Oh yes I remember, and have a photo of Our first tree......very funny it looks too. I have been through the artificial, then when the kids came going to cut a REAL LIVE one, but unfortunately they don't keep very well in Australia, so now a full circle and back to an artificial one....but it does look nice and The Scot switches on the lights first thing every morning.
    Christmas in the heat is very different from Christmas in the cold. I know having lived in the UK until I was 21 and now Australia. Love reading your blog.

  5. I remember two lots selling trees, one across the road from the other. One was the Knights of Columbus and very busy because their trees were full and beautiful. The other lot was the Boy Scouts and their trees were small and scrawny, so for them business was slow. I bought my first tree from the Boy Scouts, and I loved it, even though one side was almost missing, it was so scrawny. It didn't matter because the boys were so excited to make a sale, and that was enough for me. Yes, I remember well.

  6. Really loved this Rick! Cardinals, my favorite surprise outside the window, planting trees instead of killing them-- standing ovation! And your dry wit with warm heart--wonderful. I don't remember my first tree. I remember when my parents decided to go artificial, and my sister and I putting the color coded wire tips into the holes on the was a fake scotch pine:-) We have an artificial tree now, mostly to save my family the agony of going Christmas tree shopping with me, the picky tree picker...thank you for the smiles :-)

  7. Great post Rick. You always leave me smiling.


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