My late father used to pinch a penny until it screamed, and then pinch it some more. So when it came to Christmas trees, there was no fun little trip to the Christmas tree lot or farm to be had. And back when I was younger, artificial trees weren't so much in vogue as they are now.
So one Christmas, when I was about 15, my father and my younger brother went out looking for a Christmas tree. What they came back with is the stuff of family legend.
I really have no idea what kind of tree it was. It wasn't a Douglas fir or anything like that. It also wasn't a typical southern long leaf pine sapling, if the needles were anything to go by. And speaking of its foliage, it was, to be generous, sparse.
The tree was about six feet tall, and very, very skinny. There was no gently sloping line from a narrow tip to a full bottom. It was the Olive Oyl of Christmas trees, one thin silhouette from bottom to top, with a handful of sharp, jutting branches like a dozen skinny arms.
It managed to stay upright until we hung the first ball. Clearly, the tree was incapable of standing by itself. So my mother, ever practical and ingenious--and well aware that my father would under no circumstances admit that the tree he brought home was anything less that what it should be--decided that we could temporarily sew the top of the tree to the top of the draperies standing right behind it. The thread would keep the tree upright as we applied the decorations.
With the tree fortified, we finished decorating it. Of course, we used about half the decorations we would usually use, and no combination of decorations--more garland than balls, more balls than garland--made it look any less anorexic. But it was a Christmas tree, and there were presents under it on Christmas. And we had something to talk about for years.
Which we did on a regular basis, for the pitiful little Christmas tree had one particular feature that added to the longevity of its memory, long after the pitiful sapling was hauled away in the January garbage. It was quite a shedder, dropping needles at an alarming rate. And the needles were as sharp as sewing needles, stabbing into bare toes and feet like heat-seeking missiles. We vacuumed, hand picked needles out, vaccuumed some more, and yet for YEARS afterwards, some unsuspecting bare foot would happen upon a needle in the carpet and the owner would cry out, "Damned Christmas Tree!"