Trees of Christmases Past

One year, living near the ocean in South Bay, we got a fake Christmas tree. The metallic silver needles, like tiny confetti mirrors, reflected shades of yellow, blue, and red, emitted from a rotating electric color wheel placed beneath the tree. The colors turned almost as slow as a sunset. At night, with the lights in the room all off, the colors from the wheel flickered through the spaces between the thin tree branches and splashed neon paint over the walls and across the silver glittered stucco ceiling. It was our first and last psychedelic Christmas tree. The next year, we got a real tree, and the fake tree stayed boxed in the attic. Maybe it’s still up there, awaiting a psychedelic rebirth. One of these days, someone will find it and haul it off to Antiques Roadshow.

Another year, living in an apartment on the other side of town, now less than a mile from the water, and just under ten miles along the bike path from my first teaching gig, in Venice, Susan and I bought a live tree, a small pine, rooted in a five-gallon bucket. After Christmas, we planted the pine in my parents’ front yard. Before I went on the Facebook wagon, some time ago, I posted a pic and mentioned the tree to a few ES locals. “Who knew Joe would wind up so sentimental,” one said. The tree has grown to a height of 20 feet or so. It’s not shaped like a Christmas tree. It looks more like a thick, wind tossed, but healthy, lone cypress. It leans out toward the street, between the house and a fire hydrant next to the sidewalk.

In the Northwest, folks still drive out of the city to cut a fresh tree. In the wooded areas outside Portland, U-Cut Christmas tree farms are as common as surf spots along Santa Monica Bay. One year, up on a tree farm about twenty miles east of Portland, a full fir roped to the car roof, I suddenly discovered I’d locked the car keys inside the car.

Another year, Susan won a Christmas tree, in a name that tune oldies radio contest. The only problem was that the tree was in a lot across the Columbia River in Vancouver. Christmas tree time in the Portland area is often cold and rainy and windy. We drove across the bridge to Vancouver, the East Wind scouring the Gorge with elbow grease, picked out a tree at the lot, petted the farm animals, visited the gift shop, where we drank some hot chocolate, and drove off for the return trip to Portland. By the time we got back to the bridge, the winds were kicking up with 40 mile per hour gusts, and with the wind cutting across our eight foot fir tree tied to the top of our little Honda, the river crossing was like windsurfing on a sailboard. I held the Honda to 40, and we blew sideways into Portland.

Our cat likes a Christmas tree. She won’t bother it, claw at the ornaments. She’s at an age now where she just sleeps under the tree, on the white cotton blanket that’s supposed to connote snow. This year, I’m thinking it’s a good place to be, for me too, under the tree, but the cat prefers sleeping solo. Outside this morning the snow is more than a connotation. Those are denotative flakes blowing in a new east wind. If I let the Scrooge hiding in my soul emerge this year, I’m likely to wind up in the snow bed outside. Check it out – click on the photo gallery above. I’m off to find a tree. One year, I walked down to a local church and picked up a tree there, not quite a mile from our place, and carried it back home on my shoulder. You don’t see this sort of thing much anymore, I thought, self-complacently, slipping and sliding on the snow-muddy shortcut path up to our street. Maybe this year I’ll surprise Susan with a fake tree. Won’t she be surprised?


  1. Geannie Newell says:

    Joe: Now that I’m done with school I’m enjoying catching up on some of your posts. It’s funny how someone else’s memories will spark your own. We always had “real” trees. Some we planted in the yard because they came in the 5 gallon bucket or we made the pilgrimage to the u cut tree farm. One year I announced that I was going to get a fiber optic tree. My husband told me to do whatever I wanted. I picked out a nice 6′ tree and brought it home. As I unboxed it my husband just stared at me. Finally he said “I cant believe you did that”. I guess he was agreeing to agree rather than tell me his true feelings. Needless to say the tree got re-boxed and I gave it to a friend. This year I had only a little Charlie Brown tree. I hope you and Susan had a wonderful Christmas.

    1. Joe Linker says:

      Hey, Geannie, good story. I guess some of those fibre optic trees are classics. Seems to be a story that goes with every tree. Holiday cheers to you too!

  2. mijo1947 says:

    Hi, I don’t know if a reply is the same as leaving a comment. I just started a blog site – ok I know other people have been doing it for years.. and I found your site. I love the title…oh yes and reading about the christmas trees!

    1. Joe Linker says:

      Yes, to reply is to comment. Thanks for reading and commenting. Your blog start looks interesting. I was an usher once, too.

  3. levilinker says:

    Early this summer I had to fall a 40′ Douglas Fir taken over by the bark beetle. One cut at the base and we buried a stake with the tip! This Christmas we’re warming our house with that tree. Your post makes me wonder if it was someone’s Christmas tree from long ago?
    Fake or real tree? Maybe I’ll replanet.

    1. Joe Linker says:

      Hey, Kev – thx for reading & comment. Wow, that’s a big tree to be taking down by yourself. Did you count the rings? A Doug Fir in Amador would probably grow a foot a year? Could have been a wild tree. People don’t usually plant Doug Firs for garden, yard, shade trees. Maybe someone was thinking of growing a Christmas tree and cutting it at some point? I would replant it with a cherry or a pear or an apple. Of course, many parts of the pine are edible.

  4. bristlehound says:

    As a “Down-underman” we experience a whole different Christmas climate, and range of trees. We recently removed a cypress tree which we would have enjoyed shipping to you. Oh! but you would have to build a special room with the tree being as high as a house. You may also require zoo-keeping skills as there will be wildlife accompanying, namely possums (very large squirrels). You could have the “very large squirrels” entertain the Christmas guests with their songs and eternal scratching. They sleep anywhere, and would be just as happy in your bedroom as between your walls. Most enjoyable post, quite evocative. Please feel free to let me know should you wish for a truly authentic Christmas, animals included.

    1. Joe Linker says:

      I’m reminded of the squirrel scene in “Christmas Vacation.” Yes, we are upsidedown seasonally. An Endless Summer would make a nice Christmas gift, but you can keep the large tree housing the possums! Thanks for reading and commenting.

    1. Joe Linker says:

      It is so cold outside this morning that you feel the slightest breath of the smallest bird landing askew on a branch will shatter leaves.

  5. Babs says:

    love your story, but I don’t remember the tree. Susan would probably cause you a lot of trouble if you bring home a fake tree! I have a fake and I love it. Blue and silver with silver ribbons. white lights. serene. send us more stories.

    1. Joe Linker says:

      Saw yr tree pic – wonderful. Pause here for the trees while the temp drops to 10 degrees! The rhododendron leaves are curled so small and tight against the cold they look fake. Add to that a breath of breeze and it appears they will shatter like delicate ornaments. Oh, the warmth of the fake tree near the beach.

  6. Loved reading of your Christmas tree sagas. One early memory is with my dad in a snowy wood at night, being dressed like an Eskimo, equipped with torch and saw, hunting for the perfect tree. Wir hatten – richtigen Tannen mit richtigen Kerzen.
    I kept using real trees and candles throughout my son’s childhood. Nowadays I have a small wire-skeleton-of-a tree which I decorate with my best-loved ornaments. It has tiny lights (not psychedelic) that look very pretty.

    1. Joe Linker says:

      Your trees sound lovely, Ashen. “…with my dad in a snowy wood at night” Good memory.

  7. Dan Hennessy says:

    Joe, I got no images .

    1. Joe Linker says:

      Hmm… I don’t know. They appear here. Maybe they only appear to believers? Try refreshing yr browser. What a word, browser. According to Google Dictionary, browser has grown in use, of course, obviously, but it used to mean, well, I suppose it still does mean: “an animal that feeds mainly on high-growing vegetation.” Which brings me back to the subject of Christmas trees. The topper, the ornaments you have to get a chair to hang high in the tree, if the tree is overhead. Well, did you refresh your browser yet? Can you see them now?

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