Several weeks before Christmas, my brother and I would start hassling my parents regarding the need for a Christmas tree. Eventually, time would be found, and we’d pile into the ute, with the dog and the axe in the back, and drive down to the Creek – a nice spot 17km away, where red river gums grew. Once there, the hunt would commence for a suitable Christmas tree. We would drive strategically around the area, occasionally stopping to check out potential saplings, before rejecting them as too sparse, too big, too infested with ants, and so on. Some time would usually pass before we’d find a tree (or portion of tree) we’d all agree on . As a general rule, the quality of tree that was acceptable was proportional to some relationship between the time we’d already spent driving around, and how hot it happened to be that afternoon.
Once selected, the tree would be chopped down, and heaved into the back of the ute with the dog (who would have spent most of her Christmas tree hunting time running around looking for dead animals or other delightfully smelly things to roll in). We would then drive home, where the area for Christmas tree placement that year had hopefully already been selected (there were a few different options depending on furniture arrangement and who else would be spending Christmas at the house that year). A bucket would be found, and the kitchen rearranged so the Christmas tree could be carried straight through and into the lounge room. It would then be placed in the bucket, and house bricks would be placed strategically around it to keep it upright in the bucket. This process could take up to half an hour, as the tree would invariably have some sort of tilt, and would consistently try and fall over. Eventually some sort of equilibrium would be reached, and water would be poured into the bucket, which could then be decorated to look all Christmas like.
At this point, the children would be yelling “Mum, where are the Christmas decorations?”, and she would tell us, and we would look in the high cupboards, but fail to find them, and she would have to go and find them herself, despite having 1001 other things to do, as it was nearly Christmas. And then we would put on the streams of tinsel, and the flashing colourful lights, and the colourful bells, and the mice (mice?), and the Christmas parcels I had made when I was six, and the Christmas balls that my brother always used as cricket balls, or for some other sort of sport, and had therefore destroyed most of, and the fancy Christmas fabric doodads, and the painted bread dough Christmas shapes from a few years ago, and the little santa, and the two bendy men with tinsel legs and furry hats. For the most part, there was no star, as gum trees don’t really have tops, they just tend to wave around brushing the ceiling in a non-homogenous fashion.
And then the smell of mildly-distressed gum tree would fill the house, and it would smell like Christmas.