White (Pine) Christmas

Until the age of seven, all I’d ever known was an artificial Christmas tree in my grandparents’ living room. Every year, a large box would be brought up from the cellar (we call them cellars up north) and magically, a tree would appear in front of the large picture window. First, the fake tree was adorned with the enormous, gaudy, multi-colored Christmas lights that were popular in the 70s. Then, my grandmother (God rest her soul) would decorate the tree with glass ornaments that my cousin Anthony and I would purposely drop onto the wood floor to hear the “POP!” they would make as they shattered into smithereens. We would then sneakily sweep the shards under the rug. Yes, we were THOSE kids. Sorry, Gram.

I spent the Christmas of 1979 with my biological parents. I don’t remember having a tree that year. In fact, I don’t remember anything about that Christmas….

I was still getting to know my adopted parents when I experienced what is now one of my most special holiday- related memories. A couple weeks before Christmas, my new father and I set out on an adventure. Having lived in the mountains of western Virginia for almost a year, I had already hiked to the reservoir behind our house with my new dad on several occasions. The manmade lake sat high up on the ridgeline and was probably a mile or so from our home. But this hike was going to be different than the others we had taken. This time, my father carried a saw–not a chainsaw, but the kind of saw one had to push back and forth. It being close to the winter solstice, the air had a late fall chill to it. Armed with the saw and wearing our hiking boots, overalls, and coats, my new father and I began our trek up to the reservoir. As we climbed higher and higher, the sun shone down brightly through the trees, which stood mostly bare against the blue sky above. Under our feet, the thick layer of brown leaves crunched with every step we took. The mountain air was fresh and clean. About a half an hour later, we were gazing out at the reservoir and the beautiful mountains surrounding it. Behind us was a view of the peaceful Shenandoah Valley below. Carefully, we worked our way around the reservoir until we found what we were looking for. Kneeling beside it, my father on one side of the saw and myself on the other, we worked together to cut down the small White Pine tree. With a great feeling of satisfaction, we dragged the tree back down the mountain to our humble abode.  It was my first experience with cutting down, and having, an actual tree for Christmas. 

Later in the evening, after the tree had been set up in the corner of our living room, we decorated it. The smell of the freshly cut pine filled the room as we sat and strung popcorn and cranberries. Bit by bit, the tree was transformed with lights, ornaments, and various decorations. When we finished, we sat in the dark living room, as a family, admiring the tree in all its glory before us.

Now, some might laugh and say that my first real Christmas tree was sad or pitiful. Some might even say I should have had a majestic Douglas or Fraser fir, or a beautiful Blue Spruce as my first real tree. But I say, nothing could ever have been better than my White Pine Christmas.


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photography by JEJ PHOTOS Budget Blinds of North

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