The Herald Bulletin

December 18, 2013

Rick Bramwell: Nothing like a real tree at Christmas

By Rick Bramwell
For The Herald Bulletin

— For the second straight year, I have put up an artificial Christmas tree. It is very convenient and does not require water or leave hundreds of dead nettles in its place. That being said, I miss the real thing.

I like the smell of a real tree and even the imperfections. We would face the bad side to the wall and use fishing line to pull down branches to cover a hole. Most of all, I miss selecting and cutting the tree.

I grew up on a farm north of Madison, along Highway 7. We had to drive to Louisville if we wanted Pepsi and buying a Scotch pine or Douglas Fir was out of the question. The only Christmas tree we knew was made of cedar. Cedar grows in poor clay soil and gets the respect of Canadian thistle.

I recall a heavy snowstorm just after Thanksgiving. The new landscape put us in the Holliday mode. My Dad Herald, sister Lois and brother Roger ran through the sugar camp looking for the perfect tree. We found a pretty good one, but on the way home saw a cedar that all agreed was perfect. We cut it as well and gave the other tree to an elderly couple down the road.

My grandmother was German that brought with her the tradition of leaving the Christmas tree up until Good Friday.

One ornament, I remember, was in the shape and color of a cardinal. It was also a whistle; you could put water in it and blow. The cardinal made a chirping sound. Wish I still had those.

In recent years Jourdan and I would go to Ratliff's tree farm, in early November, to put our name on a tree. After Thanksgiving, we or they would cut the tree then go into the gift shop for hot cider.

With Jourdan off to college, the fun of finding a tree was gone. I am not a fan of the empty nest. I see her less every year and next year my IU grad will go out of state to get her master's degree. Thankfully, Jourdan will be here for Christmas break.

I have found a solution to the empty nest. I often take members of my softball team to church or pitching practice with Roger Murdock. Two of the girls, Brittany and Brianna, are 14-year old twins.

One or the other often gets off the school bus at my house. I feed them and make sure the homework gets done. Brittany likes to hunt and shoot. Brianna likes music and loved going to the TobyMac concert with Jourdan and I last Sunday.

The twins and I decorated my tree last Tuesday and the warm spirit of Christmas filled the room. Perhaps, the live tree tradition will return next year.

The Bramwell Christmas dinner is being held Sunday and I am tempted to cheat on the pie-making. There is a new bakery in Markelville, Morley's, I think. They make wonderful yummies. Including the coconut cream pie, I brought to the Thanksgiving table.