Laura says we need another funny story. Like so many stories they are much funnier in retrospect. My most vivid memory of Christmas is the year my parents left in bitter cold weather to fetch a tree. I don’t remember why they went alone because my brother and I were in high school and even my sister was old enough to be helpful. I do remember it was late in the evening and they both were a little tipsy. Unfortunately back then drinking and driving was all too common.
At the time, we lived on an old Naval Base and the officer quarters were in renovated WW II barracks. They were like large apartments, with six units in our building. When I say large, I mean large. Ours was four bedrooms, a den, formal living room, large dining room, a small library and a huge kitchen. We were on the second level. There were three doors to our unit. Two were from an inside hallway and one led into the den, while the other was the main entrance at the formal living room. The third door was off a fire escape and opened into the kitchen. We almost always used the den entrance. In fact we rarely used the formal living room which was quite large. The unit’s other distinguishing feature was very high ceilings.
This was our first year in the quarters and I’m sure the intent was to get a tree for the good size den. We had school next day, so my brother sister and I had all gone to bed. Suddenly we were awaken by this loud racket out in the hallway accompanied by boisterous cussing coming from our dad. I’m sure the neighbors across the hall were disturbed although I don’t remember seeing them. We were so focused on our parents; nothing else is recorded in my memory. When my brother and I arrived in the den we were greeted by my parents trying to push this enormous tree through the door. How they managed to pull the tree up the stairs is still a mystery. After at least a half hour, many choice words and much racket, it was clear the tree was not coming in through the door. My father was in no shape to problem solve and my mother was just trying to keep everyone quite. Like I said many stories are only funny later, although I have to admit we were laughing inside. This tree was so ridiculously big and the situation was so bizarre there were only two choices cry or laugh.
On the front side of the building, the lower level had screen in porches and we had these large windows. They weren’t picture windows, but they were at least double the size of a normal window and fortunately for us they were wider than the door and they opened. There was one at the end of the hallway and we had two in the living room. It was a struggle, but my brother and I finally managed to extract the tree onto the roof of the screen in porch below. We were frozen and we still had one more window to go through. I’m sure by this time the whole building was awake, including the Captain, my father’s boss and my girlfriend’s dad. Finally Monster Tree was in the house and noise was indoors.
Our tree stand was ingenious and homemade. Many things we used in those days were handmade. My dad built the cross members (feet) out or 2x4s. He then attached a regular size galvanized pail, with a spike in the middle. All the holes were sealed and it did not leak. We had used this stand for many years. But this stand was built for your average large size tree, not Monster Tree. Why would they even sell this size tree at a tree lot??? We manage to get the stand anchored to the trunk and then we hoisted the tree upright. The tree top touched the ceiling (no top ornament this year) and it was so broad, I didn’t dare let go. You can imagine that the cussing was still flowing, even though my brother and I had taken over long ago. Dad was in a chair with a highball, while our mother was thankful for her boys. My dad was no help, but my brother remembered where we had some rope. We placed two guide wires around Monster Tree and secured them to the window latches. I wish I had a picture because it was a site to behold. What seemed like a nightmare was over and we all went to bed.
That weekend we trimmed the tree in a joyous afternoon, just like every year. My dad’s function was to add the tinsel and to train us (just like every year) the fine art of placing tinsel. They went on one at a time. You could always tell my dad’s area. He was an expert, perhaps one of a kind. No tree has ever looked more beautiful than the area my father placed his tinsel. Monster Tree was beautiful that Christmas and we enjoyed a room we rarely used. It gave us time away from the TV; it gave us family time. My mother never asked for a huge tree again.