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Perfect conditions for a tree

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A little snow is all it took to inspire me to get the Christmas tree.

“Let’s get the tree Sunday,” Carol said earlier in the week. I said “okay,” but in reality Christmas seemed far away and the thought of the season with the self-imposed dictum to find the “perfect gift” was too much to deal with.

Then along came Saturday and the first snow of the winter. The storm wasn’t to brag about despite all the hoopla given by the media and the state Department of Transportation trucks I encountered practically driving down the center of West Shore Road casting rock salt on what was then clear pavement. The road was white behind them.

Perhaps, I thought at the time, the state had an inside line on the storm. The snow still wasn’t sticking, however, when I got home I pulled the tarp off the snow blower, gave it a quarter tank of gas and, to my sheer amazement, it started on the second pull. Next it was the coal stove that we didn’t even need to use last winter. Sticks I had broken up and set in it some time ago were bone dry. A fire was soon raging, just what was needed to start the coal.

“How about turkey soup for lunch?” Carol suggested. The last of the soup from the Thanksgiving turkey sounded wonderful, but I was on a roll and I wasn’t ready to slow down.

“I’m going to get the tree,” I announced.

Carol looked at me in disbelief. Usually getting the tree takes some prodding, along with some reminders like bringing down the box of ornaments and lights from the attic and strategically placing them in the entryway so there’s no chance they’ll be overlooked.

I’ve written about our searches for a Christmas tree and the year, to the shock of my children, I bought the cheapest tree on the lot – actually, it was a couple of days before Christmas and no matter where we looked there wasn’t much left. Anyway, apart from saving a few bucks, which is not a bad lesson, I thought the tree could offer insights. I was convinced that even this tree could be beautiful – the ugly duckling could become the swan with some work. Along with the tree, the vendor was pleased to give me a handful of boughs he had trimmed from trees sold.

At home I went to work with a knife and the power drill. I drilled quarter inch holes into the trunk of the scrawny tree and then whittled the ends of the boughs so they could be appropriately fitted into their host. It wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty, but my point, that with some work conditions can be improved, had been made. Besides, we had rescued a waif.

There was no such message to be taken from this year’s tree, although it was one of the last at Morris Farm.

If what I found was so to speak “the bottom of the barrel,” I can only imagine what the trees must have been like before I made my purchase. This tree is perfectly symmetrical, the needles fresh and springy and a rich deep green. There were no holes to be turned to the wall and with a dusting of snow – Mother Nature’s own ornamentation – was sold.

My tree excursion had taken all of 20 minutes, with most of the time spent talking with John Morris about the farm and his kids. I believe Carol was surprised to see me home so quickly. Ollie was excited, sniffing over our newest family member.

“Don’t pee on it,” Carol directed him. He seemed to understand. There haven’t been any accidents.

The turkey soup could wait. We set to work, erecting the tree and stringing on the lights.

Carol put on Handel’s Messiah. The snow was blowing outside as we retrieved ornaments that evoked memories from Christmases past.

“It’s almost too perfect,” said Carol, standing back to look at the tree. Then she spotted one bough extending beyond the tree’s uniform conical shape. It was just what she wanted as the perch for her favorite cardinal ornament.

Christmas is that, too. Seeing the exception and giving it a prominent place along with finding the ideal gift. However, I wouldn’t recommend starting with a reject tree unless there’s a lesson. And if you do take that course, be careful the branches come off.

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