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Oh, Christmas tree how lovely are your branches

Christmas comes much earlier these days.

When I was growing up, a few days before Sandy Claus came,

Daddy would go out in the woods and chop down a cedar tree. Mama would string on the lights and we would hang a few glass balls and toss on ice cycles and Christmas could come.

So, holding with family tradition, bringing home the Christmas tree is not a day after Thanksgiving event.  Two weeks before Christmas is a stretch.

But, this year, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a little extra Christmas cheer. So, I drove down to the Christmas tree lot on South Brundidge Street with every intention of buying a tree and decorating it that very night.

But, to my surprise, the lot was empty. “North Carolina Christmas Trees,” the sign belied. Not even one wayward branch.”  If I wanted a Christmas tree, I was going to have to go to North Carolina to get it.

But, maybe, I would take an ax and hack down a cedar tree.

That’s the kind of Christmas tree that I grew up with. Why not?

But, by the time I found the ax and drove the dirt road hoping to spy a cedar tree that could double as a Christmas tree, dark had caught me.

Sigh.

On the drive home, visions of Christmas trees dance in my head.

Not the kind of Christmas trees that come from a store. The real kind of Christmas trees, most often cedar and sometimes pine. The glass balls on the Christmas trees of my childhood hung limply on the limber limbs of the cedar tree. Often taking leave of the tree, bouncing silently across the wood floor.

The lights were off more often than on. Mama would have to scavenge the tree to find the one loose bulb and screw it back in place and bring the soft glow of color back to the cold living room.

The ice cycles that survived on the tree mimicked the light from the little glass bulbs but those scattered on the floor had long lost their luster.

The blue, plastic star atop the tree had survived the toppling of the tree at the paws of the wayward cat or a gust of wind that the window chinking failed to push back on itself. The blue plastic star was what Christmas was all about. So, when the tree came down, Mama wrapped the star in white tissue paper and placed it high on a kitchen shelf.

The day after Christmas, Daddy would haul the crisping Christmas tree down to the fishpond, tie a brick around the trunk and sink it in the cold, dark water. There, it would make a good, safe place for baby fish, he said.

So, if I can’t find the ax, North Carolina is not all that far. And, I still have a few more days until it’s time to decorate the tree for Christmas.