A Christmas Story
It was a December Saturday in 1956 when my surgeon father decided he and I would go out and cut down our Christmas tree just as he had done as a boy. Equipped with a rope, a canvas tarp, saws, an axe and several hatchets, we left our house in suburban Pittsburgh at 9:00 a.m. in a light snowfall and headed for the tree farm in Washington County, a distance of about 40 miles.
Two hours later we swung off the main road onto the narrow, rutted road up to the farm, and one minute later the Chrysler sedan was off the road and in the ditch. Cell phones were unknown in 1956 so we had to walk up to the tree farm office to call the nearest AAA for a tow truck. It continued to snow as we walked back down to the car and waited two hours for the three A’s.
The tow truck came, pulled us out and we went up the hill to the tree farm. After much walking, evaluation, measuring, and some arguing, we selected the “perfect” Altmanian Christmas tree. (Of course, we then had to walk back to the car to get our tools and bring them to the tree.) The cutting part was rather easy, as I remember, but the dragging it to the car was difficult with all of our tools.
We put the tarp on the roof, I lowered the four windows, and we tied the tree securely to the roof of the car. We put our tools in the trunk and brushed more snow off the windshield only to discover that we couldn’t get into the car because we had tied the doors shut!
We untied the tree and retied it with the doors open this time. We started home in a very heavy snowfall. With no interstates or parkways, it was a long drive. We got to Fox Chapel Road at about 8:00 p.m. and after turning onto Fairview Road found we couldn’t get up the hill. The road was too icy, and the car skidded everywhere.
We backed down the hill and went to the Gulf station in Aspinwall to have the tire chains put on. There were 10 cars ahead of us! Finally it was our turn to pull into the garage to raise the car for the chains. But the car was too high for the door and we had to take the tree off the roof, again. They put on the chains, we retied the tree on the car for the third time that day and headed back to Fairview hill.
We got up the hill beautifully until we heard a lout “blam!” It was still snowing as we got out to find that a chain link had broken and punctured the left rear tire. We opened the trunk, got out the spare, removed the broken chain and changed the tire.
We got home at 10:45 p.m., removed the tree from the car roof and pulled into the garage. We came through the front door to hear an angry tirade from my mother about dinner being ruined and our inconsideration for being so late.
My father said nothing. He doffer his coat and hat and headed straight for the drinks tray. Merry Christmas.