1940s and 50s
It was always Dad's job to go get the tree. We lived on a farm with cottonwood trees so that caused a dilemma -- go 14 miles into town to buy a tree or go 20 or 30 miles to cut a tree down "up in the mountains." A trip that took a lot of planning in "the olden days."
First Dad had chores and cattle to feed, a cow to milk and in earlier year's pigs to contend with. The car was checked over, tires kicked, sandwiches made by Mom. He would load my brother and me in the car and off we would go to get a Christ-a-mus tree for the living room. Mom would give Dad last minute instructions: "A big full tree, not to tall, but nice." Dad's reply would be "OK Loretta."
Mom had a million excuses not go to -- Ginger was a baby, she had cookies to bake, she had some sewing to get done before Christmas, and she HAD to get supper. Actually she enjoyed her time alone when we would go with Dad. I do not remember too much about the two or three trips to the mountains, but I do remember Dad saying "When I get the money we will buy us a tree."
Dad would stuff the tree in the trunk of the old black Chevy car, as the trunk was large enough to "put a cow in." (We had a neighbor who transported her calves and pigs to town in the trunk of her old car. Thus the saying "to put a cow in.")
Dad's other job was to make a stand for the tree -- two crossed pieces of wood, nailed and nailed and nailed into the tree. (It was always Dad's fault if the tree tipped over in the living room - not that someone put too many ornaments in one spot or pulled on a branch to put tinsel on.)
One year Mom hit on the idea -- put that tree in a bucket of sand! OK, Dad said. He shoveled sand and dirt into the big 5-gallon bucket, shoved the tree into it, and more dirt around it. He carried the whole thing into the living room. "Now John, don't get needles or dirt on the living room rug!" Dad was all bent over carrying the bucket in one hand and the tree waving around covering most of him, Johnny (Butch) opening the doors so Dad could back in, holding branches so he could get through the door, and Mom wringing her hands. (Dad wanted to put the bucket of sand-dirt in the house and then put the tree in - "Oh No!" said my Mom, "you will get sand-dirt all over the rug!")
The tree and bucket was placed on a big white sheet with a tree skirt on the white sheet. Dad got it situated just so, with the full branches in front. Mom would instruct "now turn it a little ... OK that's it...thank you John."
Dad finally could stand up straight, get his bearings, stand back and admire his all-day work. As they were admiring the tree, Johnny and I were running around with ornaments in our hands, the tree slowly tipped forward. Not comprehending what was happening, Dad, Mom, Johnny and I watched it tip over!
Dad rushed to push it back up. Mom said "No! No! John -- take that back out and put on the wooden stands."
I am sure there were stares, snuffs, huffs and puffs coming out of Dad, but he picked it up, bucket and all, we repeated backwards, getting the tree back out the door. The wooden stand was made and nailed in place and the whole process was repeated, except Dad could stand up this time coming through the door.
Mom worked for a week before getting ready for Christmas Eve dinner, getting presents wrapped, cleaning the house from the very top to the very bottom. It was spotless!
Mom's usual menu for Christmas Eve was homemade noodles for chicken noodle soup. And there was oyster stew and chili also. Homemade Parker House rolls, a big salad, home canned pickles, dill, bread and butter and sweet sweet pickles.
Then she baked the dessert! That took all day. Apple, cherry, chocolate, lemon meringue, and peach pie canned from the peaches my uncle Guy brought to her from the western slope of Colorado. But most of all, mincemeat pie for Dad and Grandpa Cogswell. In later years we all learned to like mincemeat pie -- only the way Mom made it. She canned the mincemeat from the beef Dad raised. That took all day in the fall, to cook it down and then the great spices with vinegar and sugar were added along with raisins, then she canned it in quart jars. The smell was wonderful!
When she made the pies she added sliced apples and baked it in her homemade pie crust. My uncle Marvin loved that pie also. At the insistence of my Dad, every Christmas he would invite us to try it. We all learned to eat warm mincemeat pie with vanilla ice cream piled high on top.
After the china and silverware were washed, dried and put away, we all gathered around the Christmas tree to exchange gifts. One year Grandma made me feed sack doll clothes and Grandpa made me a closet out of a wooden orange crate, complete with rod and little tiny hangers. 74 years later I can still remember how delighted I was and how many years I played with it. I have no idea what happened to it. That is one thing I wish I had hung on to! Grandma sewed all those clothes either by hand or by her old treadle machine. They had lace and ric-rack on then. And a very pretty doll to go with it.
Everyone enjoyed their Christmas Eve but no one enjoyed it more than Dad. He laughed and joked, stole other people gifts, put Mom's new pajamas on his head, teased little kids and hugged them all good night as they hurried out the door to get in bed before Santa Claus came to their house to bring them gifts on Christmas morning.
Thank you for your support. Don't forget to invite an orphan to dinner! Say prayers for the less fortunate and remember my niece Sarah and her family, who is battling stage four cancer.
Merry Christmas to all!
Grannie Annie and Bob