Archive | 11:59 PM

Christmas Tree Auctions, The Denny’s Tree, and My Dad

19 Dec

They bought it from a tree lot located on the corner of a busy street, across from a Denny’s, I think. It was a nice enough looking Christmas tree, but it still wasn’t the same. It was smaller than usual and it wasn’t even cold out when they brought it. I think it was 76 degrees that day.

No coats needed. Probably shorts and a t-shirt.

Growing up, picking up a Christmas tree required flannel underwear, long socks, sweaters, jackets, beanies, mittens and Kleenex. Granted it was probably just 60 degrees, but for this Southern California Guat 60 was cold.

So there we were packed in my dad’s two-tone brown Oldsmobile station wagon making our way to the train tracks somewhere near downtown to the Christmas tree auction.

I guess when most people think of auctions they think of the hoity-toity, with their fancy clothes, bidding thousands and thousands of dollars on boats, cars, or artwork with that small white paddle. We had no paddles here. We had USC sweatshirts and flannels. We had the hand gesture or the nod.

To this day, that is the only type of holiday shopping I have ever enjoyed … ever.

Picking up the tree was an adventure. It didn’t involve parking lots. It involved train box cars filled with Douglas firs being unloaded on cold nights. It involved the smell of fresh trees, and not the smell of the Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast specials. It didn’t involve hostile moms and dads arguing over parking spaces. It involved the excitement of bidding against another dude and his family for the perfect Christmas tree. It involved woo-hooing. It involved sitting on my dad’s shoulders just to check out the auctioneer dude. It involved browsing at trees and people watching. It involved getting hot chocolate with marshmallows from the vendor and holding it tightly in my hands so that my fingers stayed warm. It involved my dad looking at my sister and asking her, “What do you think?” It involved smiling at my dad when he finally won a bid.

Image via 123rf.com

Image via 123rf.com

It involved us freezing our butts off when we returned to the station wagon, because the heater didn’t quite kick in right away. So my mom would give us the blankets she had packed. It involved recapping the evening, jokes and all, on the drive home. It probably involved a nap as well.

The excitement of Christmas tree shopping became an unforgettable Guat family tradition that I think about every year. It became something we looked forward to every holiday season. However with the economy, and I guess other influential factors, the auction block closed down. No more Christmas tree-filled box cars, no more Dad bidding, no more hot chocolate.

This week … this week the Christmas tree was picked up in a parking lot across the street from a Denny’s. I thought about my dad as they dragged it in here in a plastic bag. Once decorated, it was a nice looking tree. Short, but plump, well-rounded. But it’s still not the same. It’s a Denny’s tree.

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