We always had really tall Christmas trees at home—so tall they usually reached right to the living-room ceiling of our family’s house in the Fresh Meadows neighborhood of Queens. Every year Mother would say, “Perhaps a smaller one would do this time,” but invariably we ended up bringing home another huge pine. Even in the years when every tree on the lot looked scrawny, we still bought the tallest one. Then we would cut off bottom branches and wire them into the bare...
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