Each year since being married, my wife, Mary Kay and I have bundled our kids up and driven this time of year to Teal's Tree Farm in Bark River. They had horse drawn sleigh rides and we could view hundreds of eligible Christmas trees to find the very best one for our home. Teal's prices have always been reasonable and they run each cut through a special machine that pulls the branches in tight to the trunk for easy safe transport home. The mesh netting around the tree also made it easy to bring into the house, place in a stand and level for release. Once opened, the bows were down like normal and decorating could begin. Our first Christmas tradition.
Our first child, Lisa Christine, is named for the day she was born, Christmas Day 1976.
In December of 1979, our number two child, Amanda (Mandy) Kay, was born. She arrived on the 7th, Pearl Harbor Day. To date, she still feels she got the better deal than her sister because she is able to celebrate her birthday and Christmas separately, whereas Lisa has it all in one swoop.
The two of them always looked forward to Christmas time as they would ready for the big day and visit with Santa. They quickly grew to thoroughly enjoy the annual trip for the tree.
Everything was working well on the annual tree selection until the time came when they were old enough to want explanations for why things happened. One demand included the question of why we take down the decorations after Christmas.
I'm not quite sure when it was, but taking down the Christmas tree actually became very traumatic for Lisa and Mandy one year, and was cause for the second of our Christmas tree traditions.
Tim Kobasic is outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet Saturday mornings.
On this particular day, I once again slid a bag up and over the dried branches to keep from having to vacuum up forty pounds of shed needles from the balsam we'd put up. From there I'd wrestle it through the living room into the hall and out the front door of the house. Back then the City of Escanaba picked up the trees that were left out along the snow banked curb.
In placing the brittle evergreen in the snow, I saw two little girls standing in the front window of our home with tears streaming down their face. I wondered what had made them so upset and hurried back inside to find out.
To my surprise, they felt sad for their tree, being left out in the cold and that someone was going to take it away, their very own Christmas tree, never to be seen again. I scrambled for an explanation that would ease their sadness.
I told them, "Oh no kids, you don't have to worry about your tree. The big yellow truck that picks them up is hired by Santa. Each year these guys collect all the Christmas trees and bring them back to the place we got ours to be re-planted so we can get it again next year. It's all part of a big deal they've got going with the North Pole."
That worked for about thirty seconds until one of them turned to me and said, "But we won't know which one is ours so we'll never see it again!", and they started crying all over.
"No, no, no. Listen. I forgot to tell you that we mark the tree each year with a special note so when we go looking for it next Christmas, we'll be sure it's our original one.", now thinking I had put this one to rest.
The next and immediate response heard: "But Daddy, we didn't put a note on this tree, and we'll never see it again!!" Turn on the waterworks.
"You don't understand. I was just coming in to tell you to make the note for this year and I'll go back out to put it on a branch so it is properly marked. Okay?"
Their smiles returned and both decided to make a special note so it would be doubly easier to find their tree for next Christmas.
Once completed I scurried out the door, putting their notes in separate zip-loc bags to protect them from rain (they thought of everything) and it was settled.
What they didn't see, was how I went back out there once they were in bed and attached a forged copy of their notes, removing the originals in knowing they wouldn't forget this lesson and would be sure to look for a very specific marked tree for next Christmas.
Well summer passed, then came fall and Thanksgiving. Shortly after is when we'd go shopping for our tree.
The next season saw the girls rocket off the sleigh and head for the stand of balsam like a couple of hunting dogs working to flush a bird. Mary Kay and I would steer them, searching for our top choice of the year. Once found we'd divert them to another area while one of us went back and slipped their notes onto the branches. Then, a short time later, the girls would stumble across their very own Christmas tree and let go with screams of joy. The system worked.
What they don't know is that we saved those notes from years ago. This year they're going to get them back and it is our hopes that they'll hang onto them to bring back those great memories when they were little and their eyes were wide.
It's another one of those little things you do now, that can end up meaning so much later.