The holidays are naturally magnets for nostalgia. Still, it is amazing to me that, as we continue to make our lives easier, we still refer to our childhood as "the good old days."

Sure, it was a simpler time, and our memories sometimes get hazy with age. But for me, growing up in a small town of about 200 people in upstate New York was like living in a Norman Rockwell picture.

Christmas trees were cut down at a local tree farm, and we usually had a $2.50 limit. That was plenty for a bushy scotch pine that we cut ourselves with our dull, rusted hacksaw. After dragging our beauty through the deep snow back to Dad's truck, my three sisters and I climbed in the cab for bumpy ride home, singing Christmas carols at the top of our lungs.

When we got home, Dad took the wild tree, with its sharp needles poking through his thin leather gloves, to the cold barn. There he first attempted to make an even cut on the sap-oozing trunk. Then he found two 2-by-4 pieces of leftover lumber and placed them directly to the bottom of the tree.Bam! Bam!

The rusty three-penny nails seared through the scrap wood and into our Christmas tree forming a cross. Voila! A perfect stand.

There was no container to put water in to keep the tree hydrated and no metal peg to set the trunk on as a stabilizer. Nope, we just had Dad's judgment in a dimly lit, cold barn with the tree resting on two wobbly saw horses.

Into the house we carried our winter treasure for the decorating. Mom had hot chocolate waiting, along with boxes of colorful glass balls and tangled webs of tiny colored lights, some with dried needles still attached from last year's tree.

One year we never could get the tree to stand on it's own, so off to the cellar Dad went. He returned with an eye hook and a spool of thin wire. Into the wall went the eye hook with the swipe of a hammer. The wire cutters snipped 5 feet of wire that was wrapped around an interior branch and looped through the eye hook on the wall.

That year we had to be careful not to walk around the back of the tree for fear that we would be clothes-lined by the wire! But those were the good old days, and the solutions were simple.

At last the tree was trimmed with our family decorations. The lights flashed, reflecting off the heavy dose of silver tinsel. During the night Santa came, and on Christmas morning the tree was still standing proudly, thanks to its tether to the wall.

Today all we have to do is to make sure that there is a wide hole drilled in the center of the Christmas tree trunk by the vendor, take the tree home and plop it on the spindle of a carefully designed tree holder.

But ah, what good memories!

The writer, a Lancaster resident, is author of the book "Listen For the Whispers."

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