Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Daddy of the House

We all have some very memorable story about Christmas Time.  Some of us have inherited these stories from our parents or grandparents.  Some of the stories just don't fade away because they are so touching or just plain funny.  Today, I am going to share with all of you my personal favorite Christmas time story, as related by my mother and aunt.  This story revolves around a most devoted father, and a store bought Christmas tree.

It was probably the late '40's in Port Wentworth, GA, a small community just to west of Savannah.  As with most children at Christmas my mother and her sister were very keen to what was popular and the "in thing".  Typically at Christmas my grandfather, saw in hand, would head out to the woods behind the house.  Those woods led to the banks of the Savannah River, and were once the grounds of The Hermitage Plantation, famous for the location where the Cotton gin was invented by Eli Whitney in the lat 18th century.  Those woods were scattered with pines, holly trees, and cedar trees.  This family always had a real live cut pine tree from the woods.  But one particular Christmas my mother and her sister wanted a store bought tree, just like other people, their friends in the neighborhood.  It was starting to be "the in thing" to buy your tree from a Christmas tree lot set up for season, the trees, most likely cut weeks before and shipped in from the north, as coastal Georgia was not the location to find a live, growing traditional Christmas tree.

So, after much asking and begging, my grandfather caved in to his daughters want to have a store bought tree.  As my mother remembers, it was a standard balsam fir tree.  I would imagine that in those days, and it being the first time a purchased tree was being used that a tree stand full of water may not have been in the picture, and that freshness wasn't necessarily a concern of tree vendors in the late '40's.  But, the much begged for tree finally made it into the living room.  Grandaddy got it put in, stood it up in whatever stand he must have fashioned and began the lighting process.  But, as the lights started going on the tree, the needles started coming off the tree at a rapid pace.  In a short amount of time, that poor, ill-fated balsam tree was absolutely needle less.  When the tree stood there with lights and no needles, my mother and her sister, as any child would do, started pitching royal fits at the state of their tree, no needles... just brown brittle branches and a couple strands of lights.  As my mother tells it, there was much crying and anguish over the situation.  But, my grandfather, completely exasperated at this point, began to have a little breakdown.  After giving in to his daughters many passioned requests for the tree, and for spending money that was scarce anyway, had finally had it.  He was a quiet reserved man of few words, but was pushed to the limit of frustration and exclaimed..."why was I ever the daddy of this house?!". 

I imagine that at this point, Grandaddy must have tossed the bare naked tree out the door and stomped off to the woods to cut down a tree for his daughters.  Over the years, whenever one of the family has found themselves in a situation where the rest of the family if frustrated and disappointed with a project gone wrong, usually the person responsible blurts out "Why was I ever the Daddy of this house?!"

Since I was of the height and age to stand on a ladder putting lights on the tree has usually been my job.  I normally decorate at least two trees a year, one for me and one for my mother.  These days I have the assistance of my two nieces, ages 11 and 8.  Believe me, at some point during that process I usually think of Granddaddy and end up saying... "why was I ever the uncle of this house?!"

Tree decorating tidbit for the day... Would you believe that electric lights were first strung on a Christmas tree in 1882.  The visionary was Edward H. Johnson, Vice President of Edison Electric at his New York City home.  The first lighting consisted of eighty egg-shaped lights in the color of red, white, and blue.  Below is a picture of that first lighted Christmas tree.

Story and Photo Credit to: www.jimonlight.com , thanks Jim for the fascinating information!
and Google Image photo stock; 1930's Christmas tree, source site unavailable.

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