Every time I watch “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” , I recall my family’s tradition of cutting down our Christmas tree each year. In the movie, Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) drags his family along in search of the perfect Christmas tree. Of course, in true Griswold fashion, everything goes wrong including the tree limbs shattering the window in the living room when Clark unties it. Although our family trips to find the perfect Christmas tree each year did not involve driving for hours, trekking through feet of snow and cutting down a tree big enough for the White House, we did have our own version of “Christmas Vacation” as I was growing up in South Carolina.
My family moved to South Carolina when I was in fourth grade and our new home was directly across the street from a Christmas tree farm. Living in Florida, I had never seen acres and acres of Christmas trees growing nor had the opportunity to actually choose my very own tree, cut it down and bring it home (we had fake Christmas trees in Florida). I anxiously waited until Thanksgiving Day that first year before begging my father to take me to cut our first Christmas tree from the farm. Even though it was only across the street, my father procrastinated for 3 days. Unfortunately, by Sunday, the weather had turned bitterly cold and it was drizzling with a light freezing rain. My mother reminded my father that he had promised me we would go that day so we bundled up and headed across the street to the Christmas tree farm – – did I forget to mention that my father despises cold weather?
Of course, being a typical child, I felt I must inspect every single tree on the fifteen-acre farm to find the perfect tree. After an hour or so (my father resembled a caveman frozen in ice by this time) my face lit up as bright as Clark Griswold’s did in the movie as I found the perfect tree – – I swear to this day light from heaven illuminated that beautiful tree. I felt so proud as I watched my father swing the ax to cut down our very first Christmas tree. I had no idea that it was not near as much fun for him seeing that he still had to drag it across the road, clean it up, put it in the stand and haul it up a flight of stairs to the living room all while missing the football games. Being a wonderful father, I never heard a grumble or a gripe (although I am sure my mother did) and he beamed with pride when I decorated the tree and dragged him from his football game to show him the finished tree.
Each year on the Sunday following Thanksgiving Day, we made that trip across the road to choose our Christmas tree. I would still have to pester my dad each year to pull him away from the football games. My mother said he should have started the tradition on Thanksgiving Day because every year after that first year, the Sunday following Thanksgiving Day was bitterly cold and rainy. But no matter how much my father hated the cold or loved his football games he loved watching me search for that perfect tree even more.