Trees of Christmases Past

By Joanna Grey Talbot

Judging by my last post I am slightly obsessed with REAL, LIVE Christmas trees – not the plastic ones that you have to assemble. Why get a candle that smells like a Fraser Fir when I could just get a real Fraser Fir. Completely logical to me. Yet, a few times throughout my life I have had to suck it up and let go off my obsession for a holiday season. Each situation has been unique and in the end I always admit and believe that the true spirit of Christmas is not found in decorations.

2013 was my first exposure to that concept. I’m giving away my age here but for the previous 28 Christmases (28!) I had enjoyed the wonder of a beautiful, sweet-smelling, live tree. That’s when Barnabas came into my life. The August prior I had dumped my loser boyfriend, quit my job, and moved to the awe-inspiring city of Washington, D.C., with my cousin, Alex. After a stint overseas she was moving there for her government job and needed a roommate. I jumped at the chance and “Joanna & Alex’s Crazy Adventure” was one of the best years of my life. That Christmas we were living in an apartment in Falls Church, which had beautiful picture windows that overlooked the main route through town. Some of my favorite memories are sitting on the couch during one of our rare snow days and watching the snow fall, but I digress.



Isn’t it pretty, though?


In the craziness of work and knowing that I would be at my brother’s for Christmas I hadn’t even thought of buying a tree (shocking, I know) but one night Alex gave us the best Christmas present – Barnabas. She had been grocery shopping and when she walked in the door she had groceries on one arm and Barnabas in the other. I have no idea what kind of tree he was but he was perfect! Just to clarify, we liked to name things. Our apartment also had a lamp named Stanley and a TV named Harvey. We had no ornaments so I sewed together a few, sad looking ones but still, and strung some lights on him. He will always be one of my most memorable Christmas trees.




After my year and a half in the Nation’s Capital I moved to a much warmer climate in Gainesville, Florida, because Alex had gotten married and kicked me out of the apartment but did me the huge favor of introducing me to my now husband, Cecil, at her wedding. Wanting to try something new and to be closer to him (long distance is hard!) convinced me to pack up my stuff again and head south.

Christmas in Florida was a whole new experience for me. Not only was it in the 70s on Christmas Day (ew!) but my beloved Fraser Fir was nowhere to be found in Gainesville, unless I bought one from Lowe’s that had been chopped down months ago. Thankfully, my cousin, Leah, introduced me to the one tree farm in town – Unicorn Hill Farm. While they were sorely lacking in fir trees I could pick from 6 different types of trees and have Cecil cut it down for me. As you can tell from the photo below it was quite warm that day. Picking out a Christmas tree in shorts is just mindboggling to me.



My handsome lumberjack

I ended up choosing one of the pine tree varieties and despite the fact that it was constantly dropping needles I really enjoyed having it in my apartment. We had enjoyed the experience of going to cut down a tree so I can’t complain. This was Cecil’s first time enjoying such an outing because – gasp – he had always grown up with a fake tree…that he got out of a box…and assembled. *facepalm*

The next Christmas we had been married for all of a month so we invited my wonderful in-laws (seriously, a woman couldn’t ask for better ones) to join us on the Christmas tree hunt. They drove up from Ocala and marched through the rows of trees with us until we found the perfect one. That Christmas was the first one my husband had a live Christmas tree in his home.



This one looks good!

This past summer we moved to North Carolina and one of my first thoughts after knowing the move was definite was that “I can finally get a Fraser Fir again!” Yet, I have had to eat my own words. I am very thankful for my apartment but it is on the small side so we don’t have a lot of room for a tree. Also, my family always goes to the tree farm the Saturday after Thanksgiving but we were traveling in Florida and my brother that lives locally wasn’t planning to go either because his two youngest aren’t yet two. Therefore, I, the lover of live Christmas trees and who has sworn up and down she will never own a fake one drove to Hobby Lobby one day and bought a four foot….plastic…assembly-required tree. *hangs head in shame*

It isn’t big enough to fit all our ornaments and with the lack of space in our apartment it is sitting on three boxes full of books covered by a Christmas tablecloth and the tree skirt, but as I continually have to remind myself the true spirit of Christmas is not in a tree. It still makes me smile each time I plug in the lights and place a wrapped present underneath but what I miss most is the smell. Next year!



It’s still pretty, right?

Just don’t get me started on the “percussion tree” in the other corner of the living room, which consists of my husband’s stored drum set with a string of lights on it.


Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!







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