Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Real Christmas Trees.

1) In Pennsylvania each December we took a right past the Paupack Post Office onto Gumbletown Road, so curvy but beautiful, and drove until before that park where Jeff played little league baseball games and Mom and I played tennis sometimes, before the township building where we recycled, held girl scout meetings, and voted, and before the Paupack Blueberry Farm, we'd turn onto a dirt road to a field full of trees. I remember there usually being snow on the ground, or if not, it at least being frigidly cold, and we'd stalk around in our boots and gloves and scarves until we found a sufficient one. Then we'd find the guy with the chainsaw who'd chop it down for us and load it onto Mom's car. She'd give him 20 bucks, and once we returned to the house, she and Jeff would commence in an epic struggle to get the tree into our ancient stand, which usually involved a decent amount of curse words, while Sara and I watched TV and ate Christmas cookies.

2) Decorating the Christmas tree at my grandparents' house on Christmas Eve, always in the same spot in the corner, in front of the wood paneled walls and between those 1960's couches. Being that my grandma was a tiny, gentle woman and my grandpa an overweight, grumpy man, I don't know in retrospect how they actually got the tree into the house and into the stand, except I do know it probably involved even more curse words. They were always a fan of blue spruce. We'd toss on a bunch of tacky tinsel and the most godawful ugly balls--there seemed to be a never ending supply of them. Yet there was also a Hallmark ornament for each of the years' each cousin was born--our name was written in ballpoint pen on it in case we couldn't figure it out--and we always treated these reverently. The Zalasky cousins were usually late, so Sara and Mom and Grandma and I would do most of the decorating, saving just their Hallmark balls for them, and then commence to a long afternoon full of cheese, crackers, shrimp, candy, and a general abundance of appetizer-y food before church.

3) Christmas trees are one of the biggest exports of Oregon and Washington, and it seems like you can't walk ten feet without running into somebody selling them. For the last three years though we've stuck with the boy scout lot down on Powell in the parking lot of the Catholic church. The kids who work there always seem remarkably wholesome and helpful, throwing footballs around and being all around cheerful when helping us. It is not quite as authentic as trudging out into a field in the snow, but we still like it. We nervously drive the ten blocks home. Both of our parents have sent us boxes of some of our old, personal ornaments - I laughed about a crooked candy cane Kathy made in first grade when taking it out of the box this year, handed it to her, then she dropped it and it broke, and we both stopped laughing - and ones we have gathered ourselves, ones bought on vacation in Seattle, New York City, North Carolina. Toby seems pretty nonplussed about it, as he does about everything. Lily and Cleveland sleep beneath the needles on the skirt we bought from Target.

4) The smell. In particular, walking inside after being away from home for some 12-odd hours at work, and having it hit you in the face. And thinking, That's right, it's Christmas! And it's warm inside, and it smells good, and really, what can be better than that.


  1. loves the real Christmas tree. we finally decorated ours last night! When I was little we always used a fake tree and every year I would beg my parents to get a real tree and they never did. sadness. but now we can get whatever tree we want. and i have made it a goal this year to get Luis an ornament with his name on it so I don't feel so bad whenever we put the tree up.