Towering Christmas tree holds lights and memories

·4 min read

There have been reports of Christmas trees being in short supply this year, but Marianne and John Blankenship say they had no trouble finding a tree for their home. However, the Port Bruce couple’s ease finding the perfect tree may be due to the market for over-20-foot evergreens being much less competitive than that for six-footers.

The Blankenships retired to the lakeside hamlet that Marianne’s family, from London, had been visiting since she was two years old. He father built two post-and-beam cottages in Port Bruce (theirs and a neighbour’s), where her family spent summers while she was growing up.

John and Marianne continued to frequent her family’s cottage, which eventually became theirs. They didn’t live in Port Bruce while they were working and raising their family, but they spent lots of time by the lake.

“John worked on the cottage for 25 years,” said Marianne. “We always thought we’d like to retire here.”

And that’s exactly what they did – after retiring at age 60, the Blankenships decided to build a new home more suitable for year-round living, moving the old family cottage to another location in Port Bruce.

That new build, now 17 years old, has a raised foundation to protect it from flooding of Catfish Creek, common when there are ice blockages during freeze/thaw cycles.

The home also features a living room with a ceiling that comes to a 26-foot-high peak and a wall of windows overlooking the creek.

They decided that room would be the perfect place to showcase a special Christmas tree.

The Blankenships have mastered the logistics of getting the massive trees from the tree lot to their living room over the years.

Thanks to an inside line with Christa and Bert Brouwer, friends of theirs who live nearby, they have the pick of the Christmas tree lot. Marianne said the Brouwers planted a lot of trees on their Chalet Line farm, and each year they go out, find the just-right tree, cut it down and “haul it home”. That haul involves a trailer, since no standard vehicle is large enough for the tree to go inside or on top of.

Once they get home, the tree is wrangled through a set of double doors, with some helping hands. Their daughter and a neighbour helped to bring the tree in this year, but John said, “this was a light tree really.”

He said it was about 21 feet tall, but in the past, they have had some trees that reached the full 26-foot height of the room. They said the problem with a tree of that size was that it was so wide that it took up much of the central room, leaving little space for furniture and gathering.

The tree is decorated all the way to the top with ornaments and lights (added before it is stood up), and features a bright red star at the top. John has a train that runs around the base and, of course, presents find their way under the tree as well.

The ornaments are more than just pretty to look at, as many are keepsakes and family treasures. Marianne noted that some were passed down from her mom, and others are crafts that their kids made when they were young, “and now they’re all in their forties.”

Getting the ornaments out each year and being able to look at them in the Christmas season was a nice way to reflect on cherished holiday memories.

“Every year we break a bunch,” but she’d rather have them on display than in a box.

Marianne wonders if the tree may be the last giant one for them, saying they were getting older and it was a challenging process to manage at any age. Though, “every time we put one up, we say it might be our last!”

If it is the last big one, it won’t be the last real one – she says the fake ones are lovely, but she prefers the character, smell and experience of real trees.

In the spirit of the season, they have welcomed family, friends and neighbours to visit to share the beauty of the tree.

“We love doing this!”

Renee Hueston, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting