By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
Carole Townsend

(Not So) Common Sense
Size matters, at least where trees are concerned
By Carole Townsend

Before we get started, I trust that everyone’s Thanksgiving was glorious. I trust that all of the “leftover” options have been exhausted: turkey tetrazzini, turkey potpie, turkey soup, turkey stir fry (yes, I did), all of them. For myself, I’ll be good if I don’t see another turkey for a year or so. 

The post-Thanksgiving tradition around the Townsend household is ironclad, carved in stone, immutable. On the day after Thanksgiving, we pack up the family and our youngest dog (the others can’t be bothered with crowds or that painful jump into the car), and off we go to the Christmas tree farm. It’s one of our most treasured rituals and as with most things that we do as a family, it usually involves humor.

My husband is very cool, a man’s man. I often refer to him as a “lumberjack,” because he looks very much like one. Everything he does, he does in a big way. He starts fires in our outdoor fire pit with a blowtorch. He fans them with a gas-powered leaf blower. Come to think of it, he lights the candles on our birthday cakes with that same blowtorch. With that thought in mind then, just imagine what size Christmas tree the guy hunts for, every single year. Yep.

Our beloved Christmas tree selection ritual actually begins in the car on the way to the tree farm. “Now honey,” I begin. “Keep in mind that a tree looks much smaller outside than it does inside. Remember last year?” It’s true, you know. I think it’s a law of physics or something. Now when I remind him of the relative size of a tree, he looks in the rear view mirror and makes eye contact with the kids. He doesn’t need to say a word. The exchange simply means, “OK honey. Sure. I know.” Translated, that means, “What’s your point?”

When we reached the tree lot this year, my daughter and I did what we always do. We watched little children roasting marshmallows and drinking apple cider. We browsed through the charming gift shop. We admired the handmade wreaths and garlands. My daughter looked away for a minute, down toward the trees, and she took off running, grinning from ear to ear. I saw my husband and son talking to one of the workers as he measured the tree they had already selected. “Yeah, I’d say she’s a twelve footer, for sure,” the young man said.

“We’ll take it,” my family said in unison. By the time I made it down the hill to protest (another family tradition, one enjoyed only by me), the nice young man was sawing off the straggling bottom branches, just enough to make the tree fit nicely into the stand. We paid for the tree and a few other treasures we’d found in the gift shop, loaded the beautiful fir into the bed of my son’s truck, and off we went.

I won’t bore you with the details of how we got the tree in place and safely in the stand. Suffice it to say that lamps are replaceable, and the dogs will almost surely get over the trauma in time.

Now, on to the fun part. I love decorating our Christmas tree. I love unwrapping every beautiful ornament and admiring it before finding just the right spot for it among the others. Every single ornament comes with its own memories, doesn’t it? Oh, especially the handmade ones. Those are by far my most cherished. There’s the snowman made from a light bulb (how on earth has it survived all these years?) My son made that one in first grade. There’s the skiing reindeer that our youngest daughter proudly brought home from kindergarten. There are bottle caps with our children’s photos nestled sweetly inside, fuzzy pipe cleaner candy canes, clothespin reindeer, and Christmas trees made from pinecones. I love them all.

There are the “Baby’s First Christmas” mementos, ornaments that look like our beloved dogs, and musical trinkets. And of course, atop all the glitter and sparkling glory, the Christmas Angel overlooks the entire tree – the entire room, actually, because we have a twelve-foot-tall live monument in our family room.

Once the tree is up and decorated, or family has officially kicked off the Christmas season. Every year, I say that we will keep things low-key, that we’ll say “no” to a few activities, no matter how temptingly fun they may be. I vow to keep the shopping to a minimum and to focus instead on family and loved ones, and of course on the holiness of the Christmas season. This year, I believe that I can keep that vow. We’ll see, but I do believe that I can.

You see, the older I get, the more I understand that it isn’t about the number of presents or how busy we can be. I understand that the season truly is about family, loved ones, reverent worship and peace.

And twelve-foot trees. It’s also about twelve-foot trees, the ones that look so manageable outdoors but that require quite some doing to make them work inside. 

Those trees. Thank you, honey.

Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. She writes about family, from both a humorous and poignant perspective. Her newest book, MAGNOLIAS, SWEET TEA AND EXHAUST (July 2014, Skyhorse Publishing) takes a look at NASCAR from a Southern suburban mom’s perspective. She is currently writing her fourth book. Carole has appeared on local and national news and talk shows, including CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. When not writing, she travels throughout the region, speaking to various civic and literary groups, and advocating for the health and well-being of the family, particularly women and children. For more information, visit www.caroletownsend.com.