My little heart was pounding as my Dad and I started our climb up the hill behind The Bakery on our quest for our Christmas Tree. Snow was just beginning to fall and as I huffed and puffed we got nearer to our destination, the trees growing around birch rock. Dad would caution me, "Idy, don't slip and head over the mountain to Big Bottom." I smiled and caught the snowflakes with my tongue.
Just as Dad finished telling me not to slip, slip I did and I could see Big Bottom below. Maybe I was too excited about our quest to get scared but a clump of trees sitting right off a big rock caught my fall. I knew right off that the tree which sort of cushioned my fall was the one that needed to go down the hill with my Dad and me.
"Idy, honey that tree is scraggly, let's go farther back in the mountain where no one goes where we will find the biggest, prettiest tree in Hazard." I knew he was right 'cause we made many a trek to Birch Rock to dig ginseng, pick the grandest wildflowers in the world that bloomed in the nooks and crannies of the rocks that nature had put there for a flower bed, and yep, as I got older we would take picnic lunches and head to Birch Rock for an outing. Sometimes, we would take our "fellers" with us and maybe steal a kiss or two with only the birds, squirrels and other forest creatures as witnesses to this "stolen kiss".
We continued our quest for the family tree, but guess what, my mind was with the scraggly tree down the hill. Dad could tell where my heart was and we began our descent, stopping only long enough for Dad to take his axe and cut this anything but perfect tree. The snow was falling harder and the sky was turning darker and we knew we had to hurry while there was still enough light to get safely down the hill. However, both of us knew this path by heart for we had traveled it oh so many times.
We got the tree to our front porch and Mom sort of smiled a hidden laughing one as I call it, but only said, "Can't wait to see what you do with this one, Howard."
Here, I have to tell you my Dad was multi-talented and he made most of the clothes that I wore and I knew Dad could make a beauty out of this scraggly tree. As me and my sister, Thelma Jean, watched, Dad got busy and out of boxes of collected Christmas ornaments he chose this and that and added them with the cranberry ropes and popcorn ropes, tossing bright silver icicles here and there, and as we stood there, this scraggly tree was taking on a whole new picture. Dad carefully placed the tree lights as only he could, making the "candle light" lights illuminating our tree, not only the tree but the entire room in which it stood. Dad put the finishing touch on our tree that year with our Family Star that was kept for many years after his death. He had worked magic as that scraggly tree stood all arrayed in a fine and eloquent makeover that in my heart I knew only Dad could have done. As the Heavenly Star twinkled at the top and the little candle lights flickered, it was time for us to go to bed and let the sugar plums dance in our heads. Oh, for the heart of a little child and the simple things that we saw transformed into magical things.
"Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh, Christmas Tree, how lovely are thy branches..."