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This first Christmas came with burlap and dirt
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It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and my excitement mounted as my husband and I drove up U.S. 129. We were headed to Southern Tree Plantation in Blairsville, and every once in a while we would see a car with a Christmas tree strapped to its roof.

Carols played merrily in the truck’s CD player. I couldn’t wait to get our very first Christmas tree.

You see, my husband Heath and I got married in May. He told me the sweet story of how his parents got a Christmas tree with the roots still intact when they first got married, and planted it in their yard.

They decorated it year after year, until it got too big and they had to cut it down.

Being quite the romantic, I decided that we, too, should begin this tradition. I had two spots picked out — inside for Christmas, and outside for afterward — for our very first tree.

But while I’m romantic, Heath is extremely practical. When I told him I planned on writing this story, he wanted me to tell The Times’ readers one thing: Do not, under any circumstances, get a Christmas tree with a root ball.

And here is why.

When we arrived at Southern Tree Plantation, it was beautiful and very Christmasy. There were trees lined up in fields along the road. We pulled in and a woman cheerily told us to pick a tree from the ones planted in an area designated for trees with root balls (they call them B&B — balled and burlapped.)

We looked at the trees, first admiring a small Norway spruce, then settling on one a bit larger. The tree had character, with limbs jutting this way and that. We were very happy with it, so we told the guys there to help us load it.

The guys were driving a tractor. That should have been our first warning.

As they loaded the tree, we headed inside the barn for more Christmas cheer.

We had hot cocoa and candy and watched a family roast marshmallows. A pony walked by — part of the on-site petting zoo.

Cut trees were lined up at the end of the barn, and outside the trees were silhouetted as it began to get dark.

We payed for our tree and got in the truck to head home.

My father-in-law, Mitchell, met us at the house to help unload the tree. A process which, we thought, would take all of five minutes.

With both Heath and Mitchell lifting with all their might, the tree would not budge. Turns out root balls make Christmas trees much heavier.

They had to scoot it into a wheel barrow. And then wheel the thing through our clean, newly decorated house.

We had prepared to put the tree in a bucket, so it could be watered. But we underestimated the size of the root ball, and the bucket was too small. So when they scooted the tree off the wheel barrow, it landed, very crookedly, in the bucket, and wedged itself there.

After Heath pried the tree out of the bucket, turned on its side, we decided the bucket would not work.

We ended up spreading two large pieces of plastic out on our floor. We scooted the tree onto the plastic and wrapped it around the root ball.

An hour later, the tree was finally standing — still a little crooked — in my living room.

When I put on the tree skirt, the root ball was so big it looked more like a mini skirt.

We were a bit exhausted and frustrated, so we waited until the next day to decorate the tree.

I think it ended up looking cute. I can’t wait until we plant it in our yard and share the tradition of decorating it year after year with our kids. We can tell them the story of our very first Christmas tree.

Despite all this, when Heath tells this story to our friends, he begins it with one sentence: Do not get a Christmas tree with a root ball.