My mom Robin and her twin sister Rene’e in 1958 with the pink Christmas tree!
Women tend to find special ways to make a house into a home no matter how busy they are! It’s a special gift of ours apparently, especially around the holidays. My grandmother, Erma, who is one of my favorite people on the planet, was the epitome of a hostess. Although she juggled a household of five children, kept the books for the lucrative ranch she owned with my grandfather, helped out at the local florist shop AND was an involved and devout member of her church, she was never caught without her home in immaculate condition. Oh the standards set by generations before us! It makes the Type B in me need a shot of whiskey and cozy blanket to hide under just thinking about how she did it all. To this day one of my favorite “Erma” stories to hear is of the year when her pink 10’ high custom Christmas tree graced the pages of Sunset Magazine.
Grammie sometimes worked at the floral shop in her small town, as a way to support a friend and make a little extra money. After a while, she realized there was an abundance of pink ribbon, just laying around going unused. She asked her friend about the ribbon, which apparently had been on the shelves for quite awhile, and eventually purchased a few rolls at wholesale cost.
Being the creative spirit she is, she started thinking of creative ways to use the ribbon, especially since it was in her favorite and signature color, pink. Born in 1921, Grammie had lived through some of the toughest times in our nation’s history, which, as it did for many at the time, made her especially frugal. She was not one to go out and buy new supplies, instead she thought of inventive ways to use what was already around her. Looking for a solution to use up the ribbon, she came up with an idea.
Each year she hated spending money on a Christmas tree, since it seemed like such a waste to throw a tree out a few weeks after purchasing it. Grammie hosted a lavish annual holiday party inviting ranchers, family and friends from all around the county for cocktails and a large, festive spread. Often, she updated her decorations to keep things fresh and exciting for guests year after year. With all of this in mind, she decided to create a Christmas tree with the pink ribbon. A custom tree that would be unique and also festive was the perfect solution in her mind!
Her father and husband built a 10 foot tall frame in the shape of a Christmas tree out of metal per her request. She enlisted her mother’s help to sew a slip for the frame to cover the metal. Her job was to hand tie hundreds of pink bows with the ribbon, all with a silver bell dangling in the center. Each bow was then lovingly pinned onto the tree frame each Christmas from the late 50’s until the early 90’s. The annual resurrection of the tree was an event itself. Ribbons were stored in large floral boxes, preserving them and ensuring that they did not fade during their time in storage.
During its first year, the tree became a hit! Word spread quickly about Erma and her unique pink Christmas tree! The society pages of the local papers excitedly reported on the newest holiday tradition at Erma and Earl’s Ranch. It was during one of these photo shoots, that a friend snapped a shot and submitted it to Sunset Magazine. Having never seen a tree like it before, Sunset contacted my grandmother to hear about her 10’ foot pink tree, which ended up in their next issue! It seemed whole town was tickled pink (pun absolutely intended) by Erma’s pink Christmas masterpiece.
I believe I was 6 years old when the famous pink tree made her last appearance at our family Christmas. The whole family sat around the tree telling stories of the many Christmases that had passed with this pink goddess as the focal point. Grammie had a few tears during that last Christmas when she said goodbye to her beloved tree. Joking about it now, my mother says the tree might just be the reason she despises the color pink, as she grew up longing for a green tree like everyone else. My grandmother replies in the same manner whenever someone comments negatively on her favorite color , “Some people just have no taste…or class!”
My mom, Auntie Nee and I in 1991, our last Christmas with Grammie’s pink tree
My Grammie will be 97 in March of 2018. Last week when I went to visit her, we discussed in detail her famous pink tree, along with what she will require this year to complete the Christmas decor of her single bedroom assisted living apartment. I’ll give you one guess as to what color was requested!
I should note that the only reason Grammie is needing to be at an assisted living facility, is due to breaking a hip during a feisty game of bridge last spring. Until that time she was living on her own in her 3 bedroom immaculate home, driving her “Erma O” plated car around town, hosting parties regularly and still creating floral arrangements for Sunday at church. Grammie still enjoys her favorite cocktail whenever she can, two fingers of vodka on the rocks, which she always toasts to, “First one of the day, Lord knows we need it!” I hope her blood forever runs strong in my veins, as these are what legends are made of.
Grammie in 2016, courtesy of Fortuna Photography