As I think more about the photos of our first, unfortunate Georgia tree (see previous post), I understand better why it looked the way it did. When my parents were growing up in small Kentucky towns, Christmas trees weren’t big business. They were barely any business. Getting a tree was an exclusively do-it-yourself endeavor. Choices were limited, and the ideal of the perfect, cone-shaped tree didn’t exist, at least not in those rural areas. Maybe the fashionable Seelbach Hotel in Louisville decorated a neat, Tannenbaum-style fir, but then again, maybe not. My mother remembers her father and brothers going out in the fields on their land in central Kentucky and bringing back a tree they’d cut themselves. Daddy, from an Ohio river town in the northeast part of the state, recalls going with his dad farther up into the holler and chopping down a tree. They got what was available, what they could cut, what they could haul. Throughout Kentucky, in those years, the typical Christmas tree was a cedar. Bushy and lacking much definable shape, their branches were fine, thin and fragrant.
It was only after they were married that my parents exchanged money for a Christmas tree. As my mother remembers, they bought the first tree for their new house in Lexington from an old man who sold cedars he cut himself. The photo below dates from 1964 and shows a full but rather ungainly cedar that was the standard of my early childhood.
On Christmas morning in our house in Lexington, my hair still in rag-tied curls, I’m happily discovering Santa’s gifts of a “Debbie Eve” baby doll and a cradle. We would head to my grandparents’ later in the day, for Christmas dinner.
Christmas Eve, 1965, with Mama in the living room of my grandparents’ house. Our smiles appear to be heartfelt. We were right where we wanted to be.
Christmas morning, 1965, at my grandparents’ house.
I’m in the new red corduroy housecoat Mama made me, holding my new doll Amy. In my cloudy half-memories, this was a perfect Christmas day.