Cutting the Perfect Tree

When I was growing up here in Franklin, my shallow little brain decided that anything store-bought was superior to anything homemade.

Ho-Hos and Ding Dongs were  better lunchtime treats than homemake cookies.

Dresses from Cain-Sloan or Castner’s were preferable to those my mother made. (And don’t even get me started about the ones my grandmother would buy on her annual shopping trip to Marshall Fields.)

And having a Christmas tree shipped in from North Carolina and bought on the local lot was a status symbol ne plus ultra–especially compared to the lowly cedar which grows abundantly in these parts and which decorated many a farmhouse.

(Remember–this is my snotty little 10-year-old brain here–not anyone else’s.)

But these days, that’s all changed. And that brings me to yesterday.

I have a wondrously talented cousin who bought a fairly dilapidated 2o0 year-old stagecoach inn a few years ago. Over the years, she has lovingly restored it and now it is the perfect country home. And when I say country, I mean waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out in the country. As it should be.

Every year she has a great Christmas party for friends and family. Homemade eggnog. Homemade bean soup. Homemade desserts. Who knows–the spirits spiking the eggnog might be homemade too–just made at someone else’s home. (Are you seeing a theme here?)

One of the generous gestures that she makes is to allow her guests to cut their own Christmas tree from the cedars on her property. Most people don’t…but we have several times. Yesterday we threw our boots and gloves in the car, hitched up the trailer, and grabbed a saw before we left home. And, after eggnog and ham and soup and wine, we geared up and headed down to creek.

Eastern cedars grow along fence rows, at the bases of other trees and along creeks. The secret to finding the perfect Christmas cedar is finding one that’s off to itself. One that’s fully developed all around. So we wandered around, dodging cow patties, enjoying the fresh air.

The one we chose was near the creek, but isolated enough to have a great shape. And while no cedar will ever be as perfectly formed as a Frazier Fir or Scotch Pine, there’s just something organic about having a tree that grew up in the same neighborhood.

It’s home now…all decorated with lights and my favorite porcelain birds. And I guarantee you that it smells better than your tree–unless you have a cedar too.

I’m not big on putting out a lot of decorations. Truth be known, Osama bin Laden probably has more Christmas frippery than I do.

But honestly, if you have a twinkling tree, what else do you really need?

11 Comments

Filed under At Home, Nostalgia

11 responses to “Cutting the Perfect Tree

  1. Niece Lash

    How do I get an invite to the country inn cousins? It sounds delightful and since I am related to you, then by good luck they are related to me! And…I still Really Love Little Debbies. I’m not afraid to admit it.

  2. I made the same transition from preferring store bought to turning my nose up at anything that’s not homemade. Why are we such suckers for kids? Advertising?

  3. Julie Fisher

    Okay, I admit your cedar has to be smelling exactly like Christmas smells. And as for “store-bought” trees, I have had a real problem for about the last twenty years with these trees. When did all the tree farms start shaping their trees so that they all end up on the lots looking just like perfect pyramids. No character left in any of them!
    The other thing I have to say is that I remember as a child feeling very sorry and somewhat ashamed for my mother who made homemade cookies. When I finally saw what the store-bought cookies looked like (just as perfect as those tree-lot Christmas trees), I wondered why she couldn’t make hers look that nice.
    A very merry Christmas to you and your cedar tree!

  4. I’ve always been a homemade type of person, even when I was little. Probably because my mom’s always been uber DIY.

    And yeah. Real. Motherfucking. Tree. The parents are big fans of the Douglas Fir. But I have a fake tree in my apartment. Because (a) I am a hypocrite, and (b) I am broke, and cannot afford pretty new trees every year. But I want a real one. Bad.

  5. We always went to my grandparent’s house in Dickson and cut a tree from their pasture. A very similar experience to your’s I would imagine…dodging our very own cow patties.

    3 years ago mom bought a fake tree…I’m embarrassed to admit it.

  6. I love this! My mother always made us cut down the ugliest cedar she could find out at Uncle Walter and Aunt Dairy’s house. She insisted that we had to get one that no one else would ever want because she felt sorry for it. Our trees might have been homely, but our house always smelled delightful!!

  7. We were poor growing up, so like you- anything store bought was better. And like you, I’ve come to realize that that is not usually the case.

    Mr. C has taught me that further b/c he can make things or fix things that I would normally spend money on.

    Great Christmas post!!

  8. j9

    Wish I had the lovely silver Christmas tree my parent’s had from the 60’s. And yes, it came with a spinning color wheel. I can remember many a night sitting under the tree watching the silver “branches” change from red, to blue to green. . . Ahh – I could go for that retro tree right now.

  9. Mother

    When my brother, sister and I went to bed on Christmas Eve there was an undecorated cedar in the living room with a few family presents under it. Sometimes during the night Santa came and decorated the tree and left lots of presents. I always tried to stay awake so I could meet Santa but it never happened. Daddy died when I was 9 and things changed after that.

  10. I have never cut my own tree … thisyear I bought a Tennessee grown tree — it’s 3 ft! I love it. Next year I”m finding a place to cut my own .. .better take David with me .. me and a saw? scary.

  11. This reminds me of something my best friends daughter told her the other day regarding a meal she was eating at home. “Yeah, it’s ok, but it would taste better if we were eating it at a restaurant”.

    I am all for industrial snacks, but I do appreciate the homemade, home grown.

    And one my favorite things about Christmas is smelling the Christmas tree throughout the house. Never smelled a cedar one though. Must be very nice.

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