The Christmas Tree Was Always Real

"My mother and I decorate the Xmas tree"
Watching my mother decorate the Christmas tree.
"Kris, Pearl and Doris"
Me, my sister and my mother. Job done.
"The Christmas tree."
The presents on the table go to the relatives.
"Christmas tree on Fairfield"
1968 – My last Christmas tree living at home.

Our tree was always real.  My sister, my mother and I would go to a tree lot to pick it about a week before Christmas.  This was Detroit and in my memory it is cold and there is snow on the ground.  We picked short needled trees of medium height and (of course) well shaped.  We used a mix of glass balls my mother had collected over the years.  When we were old enough, I can’t remember when that was, we helped decorate the tree – after my mother put on the beads, the tinsel and the multicolored lights.  We had the big lights but they were pointy.  My grandparents had round lights.  The icicles went on last and there was no tossing.  It was put on a few pieces at a time up and down all the branches.  I remember one year that my mother did not want to trim the tree and was pretty unpleasant about my sister and me doing it and doing it NOW, but usually it was a pleasant evening, either Christmas eve or close to it.  My mother usually had on the CBC, the Canadian station and by that time they would be playing Christmas music. The tree was always beautiful.

My maternal grandparents, Nanny and Poppy, waited until Christmas eve to buy the tree and set it up.  The tree was always scrawny and thin but that was how their tree was supposed to be.  Their ornaments were very old.  I wonder what happened to them.  What I remember are some little Santas that went on the tree and a jolly Father Christmas looking Santa that stood in the window with his removable pipe. 

My paternal grandparents had a bigger house and a big, full, long needled tree that was in the corner of the living room next to the stairs.  My uncles Louis and Hugh plus my aunt Barbara and cousin Ernie lived there in addition to my grandparents so there were always a lot of presents under the tree.

"Cleage Tree"
Christmas tree at Grandmother Cleages.

The black and white photographs are all from the same Christmas.  I think it was 1962.  I was still in high school, about 15.  My sister was two years younger.  Unfortunately these were all taken with a polaroid and they show it.  The colored photo is from 1968. We had moved into the flat we shared with my grandparents.  They were downstairs and we were upstairs.   I had just graduated from Wayne State University and was about to head out into the world to seek my fortune. But that’s another story.

9 thoughts on “The Christmas Tree Was Always Real

  1. I can see in the pictures that the tinsel was carefully placed on the tree. I can remember spending what seemed like hours and hours hanging tinsel.

  2. Thank you Linda. I was just thinking I can't keep this up for 30 days but just a few kind words and I'm back in ;-D
    Greta, I think I did too. I kind of enjoyed it though. and then laying on the floor looking up at the lights and the tinsel. wish i could still get down on the floor to do that! now i have to lay on the couch and look.

  3. Did they have real looking, artificial trees back then? I remember some silver ones (I didn't like those) that our friends had–I think they sometimes had red or pink lights on them or facing them. We always had real trees too. What a wonderful time it seemed. We opened presents before going to church and all I could think of at church was getting back to my new things! I do remember not even wanting to open "soft" packages that I knew held clothes!

  4. I remember my Elkins cousins having a white tree one year that i think was fake. It had a blue spotlight, I think.

  5. Great pictures!! I have to admit that I was a tinsel "tosser" – but only when my Mom wasn't looking!! She always wanted us to put it up ONE STRAND AT A TIME!! 😉

  6. Another great story!

    After reading your Christmas tree story, My brother and i remembered going in group to a tree lot, in the park lot, of the supermarket, a few blocks from where lived. We put our tree on our Redio-Flyer wagon and pulled it home, usually snow and always cold. It would be a coupla days before Christmas and the family would put it up in the living room and decorate in the evening. All had fun.


  7. A lovely story Kristin and evocative photos. We always listen to Christmas music as we decorate the tree too. It’s interesting too, how our stories trigger memories in others like the tree on the wagon.

    We used to use icicles on our tree but gave that up for some reason years ago (when we left for Darwin? the cat?).

    Yesterday I noticed daugther3 has them on her tree and they look lovely….perhaps that’ s where they went. I like to cruise my daughter’s trees too as some of our family decorations were given to them when they had their own trees and families…it’s like revisiting old friends 🙂

    1. I used to buy icicles after Christmas for the coming year. We didn’t save them. I didn’t do it last year but a new “Dollar Store” has opened in the neighborhood and I’m thinking I will go see if they have some for a dollar. My husband and a friend got the tree today. It’s out in the garage so the branches will come down.

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