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Beginning at a young age, Christmas was my favorite time of year because of all the lights and excitement. But the best part was always the search for the perfect tree.

Mom dressed me in so many layers that I was toasty warm, but could barely move. I loved the ride to the countryside, where the trees were blanketed with snow and icicles sparkled in the morning sun.

Once we arrived, Dad grabbed his trusty ax and off we went trudging through the crunchy snow enjoying the crisp air as flakes gently fell. Sometimes we searched for hours.

I never met a tree I didn’t like, though I had to admit that some were far too skinny and lopsided. Mom and I preferred the tall, fat, soft Douglas firs while Dad liked the shorter pines that were easier to handle.

One year stands out in my memory. What a spiritual moment it was when we finally found the most glorious tree, standing alone as a ray of sun bathed it in a bright light. It looked magical. Dad shook his head and reminded us that trees looked a lot smaller outside than inside. “No,” he said, “it’s way too large for our house.” After some coaxing, he gave up because he knew it was useless; Mom’s smile always melted his heart.

It took Dad many chops and a few choice words to finally fell this magnificent beauty. Mom and I couldn’t stop smiling as we dragged our tree to the car. We managed to secure it on top of our Chevy and I remember thinking that other trees never covered our car like this one did.

When we arrived home, we carefully removed our fine fir and Dad immediately started trimming the trunk. After he was satisfied, he leaned the tree against the garage so that the snow could melt off of it for a few hours.

While we waited, we warmed up by drinking hot chocolate and eating Mom’s freshly baked peanut butter cookies. Our home felt cozy and warm.

Once Mom turned on Christmas music, it was time to decorate. We hung an evergreen wreath on the front door. I carefully set up our nativity scene on the fireplace mantel. Mom added some fresh evergreens, pinecones and two pastel angels. We also hung our stockings, and wrapped the banister in greens.

Finally, Dad brought in the tree. Much to our dismay, the trunk was still far too large to fit into the stand. He took the tree back outside, and I could hear his steady sawing, along with some mumbled words that he knew it was too big in the first place. He brought the tree in again, but it was more mammoth than any of us had realized. So Dad carried it out again and went back to work with his saw. He soon returned, and this time we had liftoff!

An intoxicating, fresh piney fragrance filled the room. What a beautiful tree. Eloise, our cat, was interested in this mysterious new addition. After Dad hung the strings of large colored lights, Mom and I carefully decorated the tree using our many special ornaments – some glass, some homemade and a few from when Mom was a child. The finishing touch was to drape the gold glass beads on the branches, a tradition I have carried on.

I knew this was going to be the best Christmas ever because we had the most special tree. Unfortunately on Christmas Eve, Eloise decided to climb our monstrous tree and over they both went. My father definitely knew best.