Real or fake?
Tall or short?
Thick or thin needles?
Tinsel or garland?
Colored lights or all white?
Hand-made ordainments or store brought?
These questions could start battles between family members when it came to Christmas trees and tree decoration the day after Thanksgiving at my Grandma Bettys cottage in Saugatuck.
I couldn’t tell you when the tradition of tree picking and decoration started. However, for as far back as I can remember, Christmas started the day after Thanksgiving. Grandma Betty would wake everyone early with the smell of hot chocolate and some good old fashion Christmas music.
Because WWIII would have been started, a truce was made to have a fake tree at Grandma Betty’s cottage and a real tree would be brought home to decorate. Because of this, the whole day was spent around the Christmas Tree(s).
Tree Number One
First, the real tree. After a warm cup of co-co, it was game time. Leggings, jeans, snow pants, three pairs of socks, boots, a long sleeved shirt, hoodie, winter coat, scarf, hat, mittens, and gloves were all put on before getting into the car. With all of the extra clothing, it was an even tighter squeeze into my dad’s truck than usual. Grandma Betty always got to ride in the spacious front seat.
Once we arrived at the tree farm you could feel the excitement in the air. Often we would meet up with other families who had cottages around ours that were looking for the perfect tree too. We would all say our hellos and then get ready to set out. Needed materials: saw, flag pole, and gumption to stay out there as long as it took.
Now, when I was young, my grandma would be right down there with us, tumbling in the overgrowth. She was more of an extra set of eyes now that I think back to make sure none of us kids got lost in the maze of pine, fur, evergreen, and spruce trees (a real possibility since Gregory was almost left to the wolves after being lost for over a half an hour one year).
As the years passed, however, her arthritis kept her from the hunt. She didn’t give up on coming though. She would just wait in the car or talk with the workers while she waited. Nothing would stop her from joining us.
Once the Griswold family Christmas tree was agreed upon, it would be cut down and dragged back to the car to pay. Grandma Betty would always be waiting with more hot chocolate in hand, ready to hear the story that was this year’s tree chopping adventure.
Tree Number Two
Once we all got back to Grandma Bettys cottage, after lots of swearing from my dad while trying to tie the real tree into the truck, it was time to put up and decorate the fake tree.
Now this is where I think that my Grandma Betty was the smartest lady alive. When Emmy, Gregory, and I were young she would walk us through the steps of putting the tree up just the way she liked it. And boy did she like it a certain way. White lights, never colored, white garland, and red bows. Ordainments were out of the question.
Her genius came later in life when the three of us where older, and like robots, would do all the work for her. She would start with us and then, somehow, disappear until we were done only to come back and make us change what she didn’t like.
Typical Grandma Betty.