December 16, 2009
Oh, Christmas Tree
One of the benefits of moving north was to discover the joys of cutting a fresh tree and discovering that Fraser firs smell different than Balsams and that long-needled pines have plusses and minuses. Having been deprived of such things for so many years, I have sort of gone overboard for the past few decades, opting for ever-larger specimens. In Virginia, I once unceremoniously landed in a mud wallow trying to pull a ten-foot-diameter tree through a baler.
Our tallest topped out at more than 14 feet, had a 25-foot circumference and was steadied by three guy wires to keep it upright in a stand that was seriously over its rated capacity. We found the tree in southern Rhode Island, 70 miles distant, and brought it home in a borrowed pickup truck, the tree strapped to and overhanging both ends of the truck. Rumbling up I-95, our truck with its cargo bore an uncanny resemblance to a Boeing 747 ferrying the Space Shuttle.
This year, we are in Giant Christmas Tree withdrawal. Because of a back injury, cutting our own tree was not a realistic option. Instead, we perused a lot in our town (run by the Lions Club, naturally) as well as commercial ventures that spring up for a few weeks each December. Further, we agreed ahead of time that decorating a tree off of a pair of eight-foot ladders as we have done in past years was not in the cards. Our 2009 tree would be no taller than eight feet.
The starting price for trees in the Lions lot was $45 for short-needled balsams that were guaranteed to start shedding needles as soon as we strapped it to our car. Fraser firs, our preferred trees, were $65 and up. A seven-foot one was $85 and had a gaping hole in one side.. While five dollars of the purchase price went to the Medfield Food Cupboard, we thought the cost too high.
We had heard that trees at Home Depot were fresh and realistically priced. Realistically priced, yes, but still packed so tightly from shipping that we felt we were choosing a dehydrated specimen to which we would need to add water. We passed. A ‘family’ tree lot in an adjacent town offered Bruce Springsteen carols (I had no idea) and great trees… for a hundred dollars. We passed again.
Our fallback position had always been to drive down to Big John’s and avail ourselves of one of the fresh-cut specimens they keep on hand for those in a hurry. Last Sunday morning we packed tea and cookies for the trip south but thought we’d stop at one more seasonal lot that appeared to have a large selection and a big turnover. To our amazement (and my wife’s back’s relief), we spotted a seven-foot Fraser fir that had no holes and looked quite fresh. And, at $40, it was more than fairly priced.
The tree is now tied up in our side yard, its branches fully extended. It isn’t as wide as one we’d cut for ourselves, but I’ve looked at it from every angle and I can’t find a hole or a bad spot. On Friday, as is our custom, the tree will be decorated. And, unlike previous years’ trees, this one won’t need guy wires to prevent a cat-induced tree felling.