Holiday Memories: Dad's ugly tree turns out to be the most perfect of its kind

I am a picture taking person. As far back as I can remember, I have been fascinated by or been busy snapping pictures. My favorites are of family and friends. But the one picture I wish I had taken happened when I was an early teen. It was Christmas time in our home in Springfield, Ill.

Our family was a blended family, and I was right in the middle of five step-siblings. As in most homes, December was overflowing with activities. Between school functions, church programs, family get-togethers and rushing to be ready for Santa's arrival on Christmas Eve, we didn't have much time to spare.

On this particular Christmas, my dad was designated as the official tree finder. He was to go out to the local tree nursery and find the perfect tree for our family. No one else was to go with him, he had the sole responsibility to find the tree that would bring "oohs" and "ahhs" to each family member. He seemed excited over the challenge. After bundling up to face the December chill, off he went to snag the best looking Christmas tree in town.

The rest of our family busied themselves with digging out Christmas decorations, decorating the house and baking up delicious smelling treats to enjoy. The hours ticked by and before long we heard the roar of dad's car as it pulled into the driveway. We could barely wait for him to wrestle the tree out of the car and bring it in for us to admire.

Dad finally made it to the back door, heaving and sighing with the weight of the tree. As it came into view, we were breathless and all silently thinking, "He actually did it! He found the prettiest tree on the lot." Our hopes were dashed within minutes. As dad stood the tree upright and began straightening the branches, it was obvious to all that he had failed in his mission. It was the ugliest tree any of us had ever seen.

Time seemed to stand still and no one wanted to utter the fatal words. But the inevitable had to be said. My stepmother could hold it in no longer and she spoke for the family, "Don, whatever on earth were you thinking when you saw this tree?" Dad seemed stunned. To him, it stood out among the rest and seemed perfectly fine for a family Christmas tree.

After a few hours in the basement, hacksaw in hand, dad hauled the tree back up the stairs for another inspection. In his ingenious manner, he had cut off the entire top of the tree, revealing a truly beautiful Christmas tree. Well, he actually ended up with two beautifully shaped trees, one very tiny and the other family sized, just right for us.

That year ended up being one of the funniest memories any of us had for Christmas for quite awhile. Remembering the looks on our faces as the tree first made its appearance, the sawing and hacking that went on in the basement (with a few choice words added for effect), and then the final showing of the prettiest Christmas tree in town. I wouldn't have missed it for a moment! But it sure would have made a great picture to frame among the family photographs.


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