Tag Archives: Red Cedar Trees

A FAMILY TRADITION

Family traditions can be tricky.

They can bring us comfort

And peace

And smiles.

But if we allow them

They can take up so much of our lives

That we can lose track

Of who’s life it is.

So, though I love traditions

I really try to re-examine

Them when they come

Swinging back into my day.

Holidays are especially ripe

For this.

Last week a tradition

In my family

Entered it’s 5th generation

When Elliott and Kristina

Took their kids

Into the mountains

To cut their own Christmas tree

With a permit from the forest service,

Of course.

A plains tradition

Transplanted to the mountains.

When I was a kid

My father would gather us together

And take us out into the field

To a cluster of red cedar trees

Where we would select

Our Christmas tree.

He would cut it down

Always leaving

A lower branch

So the tree could regrow.

(This was before red cedar trees

Became the nuisance

They are today.)

More often than not

It would be much bigger

Than we realized

Until we got it home

And it engulfed

The entire living room.

When Daddy took his young

Grandsons into the field

To cut a tree

The tree was so huge

It didn’t even fit into the room

And was placed outside the big glass door

On the patio

With presents placed

Just on the inside of the glass!

The adventure of cutting our own tree

Seemed like a quaint ritual

But I didn’t get the deep meaning

For my father

Until I almost messed it up.

You see we figured out over time

That my mother was allergic

To cedar

Which meant she was

Almost always sick

By Christmas.

So I pushed and pushed

Her to buy an artificial tree

Or as my father called it

The “plastic thing”!

Thankfully Daddy was a letter writer

So I have a record

In his own words

Of just how heinous

This crime was.

I read it at his funeral

And have included it

As a post script.

I am thankful for Elliott & Kristina

Picking up this meaningful tradition

And passing it along

Creating ” new old” memories

For yet another generation.

It’s hard to know

What to hold onto

And what to let go of

Since both are equally important.

I hope you enjoy

your traditions

of the season.

Looking back

While moving forward.

Gail

Nov 26, 1993

Dear Gail,

As my “sensitive” daughter you may be interested in knowing some of the thoughts that were going through my mind last evening as you all struggled to erect the “plastic thing” in our living room.

Real live red cedar trees have long held a special place in the Bellmon household.  It all started when my Dad dug up five small cedars as he and his family forded the Arkansas River at Ark City and brought them to the dug out on his new claim in the Cherokee Strip where they were planted.  Three years later they were moved to the “home place” where three have survived the heat and drought of summer, the cold and winds of winter as well as the good times of spring and fall.  They are now over 100 years old.

During my early youth in the depression years, when there was barely enough money for necessities, my mother would saw off a carefully selected lower branch from one of the trees.  By placing it carefully against a wall and by decorating it laboriously with strings of white pop corn and red cranberries interlaced with paper people cut from red and green paper folded so each emerged holding hands with its neighbor, she managed to brighten up what would otherwise have been a bleak Christmas season.

After your mother and I were married I accidentally came across a patch of wild cedars growing near the creek south of the “big hill”.  By cutting above a low limb – which later grew upright into a respectable new tree).   I was able to harvest our Christmas trees from the patch during the years you girls were growing up.  Some of my fondest memories are of Christmas seasons highlighted (for me at least) by my annual sojourn, ax in hand, to the cedar patch followed by three small girls having trouble – and needing help from their father – getting past weeds and brambles.

After some time spent artfully selecting the best tree for our purpose I would fell the candidate with the ax and we would drag it, butt first back to the pick-up for the ride to the house.  The decorating was done by your mother helped by you and your sisters.  The trees were far from perfect but they were” our trees” in every sense of the word.  They briefly added a clean outdoor scent to the whole house which was –is-their undoing since cedar oil is a villain so far as your mother’s allergies are concerned. 

Also, after a few days the branches dry out and become a fire hazard.  When taken down and pulled out the door after Christmas is over they leave behind a trail of brittle, sticky, dead needles like leaves which adhere to carpets and drapes into the next spring and summer – a reminder of Christmas past.

There is even one memory of taking the grandsons on a – hopefully – annual Christmas tree search.  Our joint efforts produced a tree too large for the living room of our “new” house.

And now we have our “Made in Taiwan” “plastic thing” – what memories can it hope to breed?  Of dust accumulated during the months it will be stored in some dark and deserted place, of cobwebs, perhaps of a nest of mice?  Clearly there will be no allergy for there is no scent, not hint of life, no danger, no challenge.  The “plastic thing” is thoroughly safe, sensibly sterile – decidedly dead, forever.

Is the “plastic thing” symbolic of what life in the waning days of the 20th century is coming to – safe – comfortable – secure – complacent?  What will follow – monotony – boredom – frustration?  Life as I have known it needs it imperfections, its disappointments as well as its successes.  Without challenge there can be no victory.

Maybe the above is too strong.  Your mother’s allergies are a real and important fact of life.  If the “plastic thing” solves that problem I reluctantly and with a real sense of loss accept the inevitable.  I greatly appreciate your concern for your mother but I wanted you to see another side of the Christmas tree controversy.

                                    Love,

                                           Your Dad

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized