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Our Christmas trees, real and unreal 

Samantha Kurkowski, 6, granddaughter of Rose Warren of

Samantha Kurkowski, 6, granddaughter of Rose Warren of Plainedge, poses outside their house with the holly tree that Warren thinks of as her Christmas tree on Tuesday. Credit: Rose Warren

Christmas trees have a speckled history in my family. In fact, I owe my very existence to the Christmas tree.

When my father was a young man in Vermont, he chopped down trees, drove a truckload south and sold them in front of the produce store my grandparents ran in Park Slope, Brooklyn. That’s where he met my mother in 1940.

Early in their marriage, they lived in Vermont and Dad always chopped down a tree. Later, when the family lived in Brooklyn with my mother’s father, Dad would buy a cut tree.

But then things changed. Shortly after I married in 1966 and moved to Levittown, I visited my parents’ brownstone in Park Slope and was shocked to see an artificial white tree decorated with gold balls. The lights were replaced with a free-standing, tri-color spotlight that rotated. I imagine that was my mother’s idea of bringing Christmas into the modern age.

That was too contemporary for me, so I continued to haul a real tree into my house. In fact, my husband, Mike, who celebrates Hanukkah, embraced my real-tree obsession. Admittedly, there was a learning curve for him. He would spend many not-so-jolly hours chipping away at the trunk so the tree would fit into the stand and stay upright. The evergreen scent and the twinkling lights brought me back to my childhood, memories of midnight Mass, Santa, new toys and parties with my cousins.

However, after many years of struggling with tree stands, Mike was no longer willing to indulge me. The tree became my job, and I soon grew weary of all the work. I bought an artificial tree and told myself it looked real, was cost effective, safe and required no watering or cleanup.

As our daughters, Rachelle and Cynthia, reached their teens, they rebelled. They asked for a real tree. I relented once or twice, but was sweeping up pine needles until Easter. I finally bought a larger artificial tree — and never again had a real one.

After Rachelle married, not only did she and her husband, John, decide to have a real tree, they trampled across Lewin Farms in Calverton and chopped down their own. Years later, Cynthia married, and she and her husband, also named John, searched lots in Levittown for hours until they found a perfectly shaped real tree.

However, after 10 years of marriage and two children, Cynthia ordered an artificial tree from Amazon in 2015. Her husband was not happy. “The real trees are too much work,” she said.

Last year, our family spent Christmas at Rachelle’s house in Ridge. There in her living room stood her first artificial tree. It was 8 feet tall and reached the ceiling. It looked quite real, but I knew it wasn’t.

As for me, in 2017, my landscaper planted a holly tree on my front lawn. That holly is now my only Christmas tree. I tell my daughters, “I have a real tree. You can see it from the kitchen window. It is maintenance-free, and God waters it.”

In the future, I imagine that my grandchildren’s first trees will be real, but possibly delivered by drone.

Reader Rose Warren lives in Plainedge.

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