From Pipi’s Pasture: Our first Christmas tree |

From Pipi’s Pasture: Our first Christmas tree

Diane Prather

Each year when the Charlie Brown Christmas special airs on television, I'm reminded of the first Christmas after Lyle and I were married. It's Charlie Brown's Christmas tree that triggers the memory.

That first Christmas we were living at Timnath, just out of Fort Collins, in a little house on a dairy farm. I was teaching at Highland High School in Ault, and Lyle, home from time spent in the army overseas, was just starting college. My salary was just a fraction of what teachers make now, and I was paying off a college loan. Moneywise, we were poor!

So when that Christmas rolled around, we found a bunch of wax somewhere, melted it with crayons (for color), and poured it into cut-down milk cartons. After the wax set up, we cut away the cartons and decorated our candles with plastic Christmas greenery. That's what we gave to our family members that Christmas. (Actually, the candles were quite pretty.)

Then we got a permit (quite reasonable then or we couldn't have afforded it) to cut an evergreen in a forest nearby (I don't remember where). When we got there we were surrounded by beautiful trees of every size, but as we walked around we came upon a tree that had been cut and left. There it lay, among boughs that had been chopped off other trees.

The discarded tree was a pitiful sight, an even more scraggly tree than Charlie Brown's. It was missing even missing branches along the trunk. We felt sorry for the tree. We gathered up some of the boughs, loaded them with the tree, and drove home.

We stopped at the 88 Cents Store in Fort Collins and bought a string of lights, some red and gold satin ornaments, some tinsel, and an angel for the tree top. I'm not sure what we used for a stand; maybe we bought one of those, too.

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At home, Lyle drilled holes along the tree's trunk and filled the tree in with the extra boughs. We set the tree up, and with the lights and all, we thought the tree was beautiful.

Unfortunately, our six-month-old kitten, Dini (short for Houdini) thought we had a beautiful tree, too. He was a housecat with plenty of energy, and he thought it was great to have a tree in the house. In the daytime we watched him away from the tree, but at night when it was quiet, Dini got his chance to explore the tree, eventually climbing up into the branches.

Because the transplanted branches weren't very stable, Dini knocked them off. Sometimes he even knocked over the tree, scattering ornaments and twisting up the string of lights. I'm a light sleeper so I listened for Dini's nightly tree climbing and quietly sneaked out of bed to set the tree up again.

I didn't want Lyle to know how naughty Dini was (he was pretty much my cat), but I wasn't fooling him at all. As I hurried to clean up the mess, Lyle was in bed secretly chuckling to himself.

That was over 50 years ago — long before we had our boys and long before Pipi's Pasture — and we have had lots of beautiful trees since then, but I will never forget our first Christmas tree.