Cordova Chronicles: Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

On a sunny 1969 Christmas tree hunt, my sister Sharon helps Dad tie a beautiful “bird” atop our little Nash Rambler. Shellhorn family photo

Dean Martin crooning:

“Oh, the weather outside is frightful,
but the fire is so delightful,
and since we’ve got no place to go,
let it snow, let it snow, let it snow”

is always good for a few groans from some of the non-traditionalists in our household, but one must admit we have already received a ton of the white stuff this year.

Some of it has been in layers of unusual powder; other times it has been heavy sludge born of warm southeasters that already has shovelers clearing flat roofs around town.

Either way, for those who don’t believe in artificial trees, all this snow could have a significant impact on the search for the perfect Christmas tree.

For us, going out the road in the hunt for that elusive evergreen has been a family tradition that dates back over 70 years, and conditions have never cancelled that endeavor.

However, this year the road is plowed only as far as the turnoff to the landfill near 16 Mile, and trees with Christmas potential are covered with layers of ice and snow.

Finding a “Nice Bird,” as Dad and Harold Nordman called it, could be difficult, and dragging it back to the vehicle through waist deep snow exhausting.

But so what? Ho Ho Ho. That’s why it is called a hunt, right? And the more challenging, the more memorable.

One year, we drove out the road, spent several hours knocking snow off trees, and realized darkness was upon us.

Heading to town, keen-eyed Nord, who just happened to be an accountant, spotted what he called a “beauty” in the glare of the car’s headlights. Dad slammed on the brakes of our little Nash Rambler, and I was sent on a quick-strike tree-harvesting mission. The only problem was that in a whiteout, we didn’t realize we were almost back to town, and the tree was practically on the road. 

It wasn’t Rudolph’s very shiny nose, but the flashing of a local police cruiser’s red lights that led to a warning for illegal tree harvesting and a Christmas tree-hunt tale that became legendary.

And inevitably, over the years we had our share of Charlie Brown trees, but they shone brightly under a sea of decorations.

On Christmas morning 1944, it’s all tinsel and smiles for Bobby, Dickie and Donita Shellhorn. Shellhorn family photo

Which at one time, included something called tinsel. Remember those packs of narrow metal strips that were tossed on the tree as the final touch in decorating?

They could cover up any tree’s deficiencies, and more than once, by the time we were done, the evergreen itself was not even visible.

Memories of Christmas morning, coming down the narrow stairs from cramped upstairs bedrooms in our tiny house, to see gifts under a spruce glittering away with shining bulbs and plentiful tinsel, last to this day.

Yet there are generations that don’t even know what tinsel is, for it was banned in 1972 as a health hazard.

However. a recently discovered 1944 Christmas morning photo shows what a role those little strands of foil played in our lives — although at seven months of age, I may have been a little bit young to remember.

May you find the perfect tree, delight in its smell and natural beauty, sense its pride in being chosen for such an honor, and even laugh at all the needles on the carpet that must be vacuumed up on New Year’s Day.

And may your holiday season sparkle with tinsel-like brightness.