fter returning home last Sunday from picking out a Christmas tree with my son for our house, a conversation ensued with a certain person in our home that will stay unnamed, due to possible Grinch comparisons. The discussion revolved around things such as how Roberts Family Farm had sold out of their trees the weekend before, but fortunately, Stull’s Country Store in Andyville and Ethan Mattingly had teamed up to sell fresh cut trees this year. It then drifted into how much I spent on the tree. It was at that particular moment in the conversation that the wheels fell off the wagon. The unnamed Grinch suggested that after Christmas, we should invest in an artificial tree on after-Christmas markdown and be done with it. What?!? It was at that moment that I felt compelled to implore whether curdled milk and rotten eggs should be gathered for the eggnog on Christmas Eve while we were at it.
hristmas has been my favorite holiday since I was a young boy. It is a magical time of the year full of twinkling lights, a jolly old elf, decorations, flying reindeer, snow falling, nativity scenes and memories. Oh, the sweet memories. They linger thick in the air like the scent of cookies baking in your grandmother’s kitchen. Presents were nice; don’t get me wrong. What child didn’t love presents? But I don’t remember much of the presents, as compared with the smells, sounds, and sights of the house during the holidays.
he things which stand out against the sands of time are sitting on the floor with mom, cutting sheets of green and red construction paper into strips that would be glued together to form a long chain garland. Each link would be numbered, and we would tear one off each day, counting down the days to Christmas. The house would fill with the fragrances of the Christmas Eve meal being prepared all day. I can’t tell you what I opened on any particular year, but I can definitively state that there wasn’t a year that went by that the first thing that happened after opening presents with my mom’s side of the family was that my great-grandfather was going to make a beeline for the front door with all his gifts to safely stow away in his car. I guess the chance of young boys suddenly becoming enamored with flannel shirts and fur felt fedoras was a risk too great for him take. Mamaw playing the piano, a victorious game of rook with dad, and getting a close spot beside papaw, so he would share some of the peanut brittle and chocolate turtles he was receive as a present, are the things I not only remember clearly, but cherish the most today.
can’t remember a year that has gone by that I haven’t put together the artificial Christmas tree either in my parents’ home or now my own since I was probably in late elementary school. Well, that was until about six years ago. I threw the worn out artificial tree away and never looked back at its oppressive color coded branches. It was that year that my son, who was in kindergarten at the time, and I started a new tradition. Each year, we go out in search for the perfect real Christmas tree. He picks it out, I provide advice if asked, and we enjoy a father/son day annually to kick off the Christmas season that we will both cherish for years to come.
n the way to Andyville last weekend, the conversation was priceless. Things such as: “Daddy, do you remember the year we went to Huber’s to get a tree, and they had that yummy apple cider that I had for the first time? That was fun, wasn’t it?” or “Daddy, do you remember the year we went to Roberts to get the tree, and I ate my cupcake from the bakery before we even got out of their driveway?,” were the type of conversation we had.
nce we arrived, Mr. Mattingly talked to him about his Star Wars hoodie and asked my son about his favorite one. He gave us tips, great conversation, tied and loaded our tree in the vehicle, gave us a chance to win a ham from inside the store, and wished us a Merry Christmas. None of this would have come from a trip to a box store to pick out a fake tree from China. Nor would the delicious barbecue and homemade fudge from inside the store been a part of the day.
n the way home, the conversation turned to how nice he thought the lady, who was a customer in Stull’s, was when she bought him nine chances to play a punch out board that got his name entered twice for a remote controlled Jeep the store would be having a drawing for.
“Daddy, I didn’t know that lady and I’ve never done that punch out thing before, but that sure was nice of her. It was fun, too.”
emories made that won’t soon be forgotten, as was evident with the excited sprint he made in the house to proclaim to his elf, Edward, and mother what we had brought home – the best Christmas tree ever.
he reason for the season is quickly lost in the consumer world we live in. For many, the stress of money, getting the perfect gifts, and the focus on what we don’t have, instead of what we do, has a way of ruining everything great about this time of year. Just try to keep in mind that no one will remember the $500 game system you drove all over the country trying to find and almost went broke getting ten years from now. Well, except for you. I know that may be easier said than done, but regardless of the presents, put your effort into making memories with love. Whether it’s cutting out construction paper on the floor for decorations, making homemade candy or picking out a tree together, these are the things they will truly cherish long after the toys have broken or been forgotten. It’s a perfect year to make homemade cards with a child and send them to those you love, especially the ones who can’t get out right now. Memories from the heart will linger long after gifts from the store lose their charm.