By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN “Our family tradition really came from my dad (Elmer Schuette). Growing up, we always had a fresh Christmas tree,” said Kris Remer of Howard Lake. “To me, Christmas would not be the same without a real Christmas tree.”
Each year, the Remer family Darren and Kris; Kayla, 18; Abby, 14; and Carolyn, 8; were accompanied by their grandpa, Elmer Schuette to go cut down a real tree for Christmas.
Joining them would be another grandchild, Brandon Reed, 19, who often assisted in cutting down the tree when he was older, Kris said.
Last year, Schuette passed away Nov. 22, before being able to accompany the family on their annual outing.
“Going to cut down a Christmas tree will never be the same without dad, but we will continue the tradition in hopes that our kids, and someday, grandkids, will keep the tradition alive,” Kris said.
The children’s favorite memory of going and cutting down Christmas trees through the years was being with their grandpa, Kris said.
A tradition takes root
When Kris was really young, she has fuzzy memories of going to tree farms and cutting down a tree.
But, when she was a little older, her siblings, Charleen, Dawn, and Kyle would go with their dad to pick out a real tree at a tree lot, she said.
“It was the funniest thing. My siblings and I would go with to pick out the tree, and we always wanted the biggest, most beautiful tree on the lot,” Kris said.
Her father, however, seemed to always pick out the tree the children thought was the most unappealing.
To this day, they still joke when passing by a forlorn looking Christmas tree that “Grandpa (or Dad) would like that tree.”
“He always seemed to pick the short, fat trees, or ones that looked like the tree in ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas,’” Kris said.
A branching tradition
When Kris started her own family, they began going to tree farms once again to cut down a tree, always accompanied by her dad and nephew, Brandon.
Before a tree farm opened near Howard Lake, they went to a tree farm near Litchfield.
“The kids always liked it. They had a petting zoo and everything,” Kris said. “The kids would have so much fun.”
She admitted that it takes a while for her family to pick out a tree, and just like her and her siblings growing up, they always want the biggest tree.
A couple of years ago, the kids wanted a huge tree, Kris said. Her husband cut it down, and they brought it home.
“But, the tree wouldn’t stay up, because it was so big and heavy,” Kris said. “The tree stand couldn’t hold it.”
“The tree must have been 10 feet wide and 20 feet tall; it was ridiculous,” Darren said.
One day, as the Remers were holding up the tree and trying to figure out how to get it to stay upright, Darren’s brother, Doug Remer, stopped by and saw their predicament through the window.
He came in to help, and the Remers rigged up a board and fishing line to hold the tree in place.
“This is the last year we are getting a tree this big,” Kris told her children.
Although last year they still got a big tree, it wasn’t quite as big, and was much more manageable, Kris said.
“The kids have already informed me they are getting a big tree this year,” Kris said.
“We’ll see,” she added with a wink.