The Christmas Tree Lot
I decided to take a quick break from work on my birthday last week to go into town and pick up some lunch. My little pup Jim already knew we were going to leave, and raced me to the door to get ready for a car ride around town.
What a beautiful day for December – a little cold, but sunny. Before I pulled into the approach at the drive through, a familiar sight captured my attention: A Christmas tree lot with a small camper for workers to keep warm. I stopped my car, rolled down the window, took in the sights and breathed in the wonderful smell of pine trees. Jim was particularly excited for the new smells, too. I closed my eyes as a surge of memories raced through my mind like the rolling frames of a silent movie, transporting me back in time.
When I was growing up, my family had a part-time business selling Christmas trees. From Thanksgiving Day to Christmas Eve, a small corner lot on a busy road bustled with families and friends looking for that perfect tree. The lot was fairly large, about a ½ acre, which was temporarily fenced. Dad decorated the fence and posts with holiday lights and fresh garland, which immediately set the mood for all our customers as they arrived.
Vince’s Christmas Trees was quite the establishment. Each tree was carefully hand trimmed and tied up on poles to show off its beauty. Dad also pitched a very large tent which was heated to display some of the more magnificent trees. The smell of fresh pine trees filled the air as trees were unwrapped, trimmed, and displayed.
Each family member had a role - selling trees, tying them up on the poles, taking them down, and tying them back up on the poles – a process that seemed almost endless on very frigid days. We even had a very small trailer with heat and electricity where we ate and warmed up. Speakers were mounted outside of the trailer and holiday tunes played throughout the day and early evening to set the holiday mood. Even when the snow came down and the wind blew fiercely, customers still came out to shop for that perfect tree, singing, laughing and just having a great time. Once customers found and paid for their tree, the tree was securely attached to their vehicles. Tidings of good cheer filled the air as customers bid waves of farewell and ‘’see you next year.’’
When it was not too busy, we did find time to have fun - from snow ball fights, sipping hot beverages and talking about our dreams and plans for the future, our time together was always cherished. We especially enjoyed watching the sky transition from day to night. The sun would bow out in glorious display of reds, purples and yellows giving way to twilight. The moon would begin its ascent along with faintly discernable twinkling stars, popping up one by one in shining brilliance, slowly blanketing the night sky to illuminate diamond-glints on snow. Even in the midst of a very busy city, there seemed to be a stilled ‘’hush’’ as evening descended upon our town.
Although the entire Christmas tree selling experience was ‘’an experience in itself,’’ it was a great time to be together with the family - especially when it came time to celebrate my birthday. For over 30 + years without fail, my birthday was celebrated at the Christmas tree lot. There was always cake, ice cream and presents. The candles were lit, the lights were turned off, and the classic ‘’1, 2, 3…Happy birthday to you.. .’’’ was sung. ‘’Happy birthday to you…happy birthday, Lee!’’ I can still hear dad singing happy birthday to me in that whimsical, thick Italian accent we all loved.
As I packed up all my birthday gifts and warmed up my car to head home, I would always look back towards the Christmas tree lot to see dad doing his last rounds of the evening. A still frame of the silent motion picture of my mind came to a halt, as feelings of love, respect, admiration, yet heavy loss, ripped through my heart once again. I could almost hear dad singing happy birthday to me once more, as I gathered Jim back into the car and rolled up my window. With a final glance and ‘’thank you’’ for the birthday memories, I drove away full of peace and gratitude for another blessed birthday.
For those celebrating holiday birthdays, please share some of your most memorable times with friends and family. Happy birthday to you and many happy returns.