“The Truth, The First Truth, Is Probably That We Are All Connected..Watching One Another. Even The Trees.” Arthur Miller
They would begin to arrive late in the afternoon on Thanksgiving, and continue in a steady flow on the weekends until a few days before Christmas. Mostly men with children, men who served in the local government with my father, men who knew my father from their employment at E.I.Dupont, and strangers who saw the ad placed in the local newspaper and brought their families to our place for the first of many years to follow. Often they brought home baked cookies or rum-cakes, Whitman Samplers or candy canes. For these few weeks a year Mom’s ‘No Trespassing’ sign was replaced with my father’s clean crisp signage that read CHRISTMAS TREES.
My father’s pride and joy, the immaculate well maintained property came alive with thousands of bright blue Christmas Lights along the fencing, and outbuildings and for those few weeks a year children ran about the winter wheat cover crop of the resting gardens. Shouting with delight I would lead games of hide and seek among the trees while the men shared sips of whiskey, smoked cigars, and shared stories round the wood-stove in the shop behind the hedges. One shop had sprouted a lock, that would remain off limits until New Years.
Then the quiet standing aside as the visitors and friends once again became customers and carefully picked their tree. Some came early to choose one of the best offerings, claiming their tree with a manilla tag bearing their name tied to a branch, some made their choice then and there and before the money was exchanged and digging began, Dad explained his business policy. He only sold live trees. There was a basic charge of three dollars. Then a charge of one dollar per foot of above the ground tree. He and the tree had invested a minimum of eight years to a life that had hundreds of years to go, and the tree could grow and reach the very heavens in height.Before one spade of often frozen earth was removed my father exacted a promise from each buyer that the tree would be planted on their property.
These individual Balsam Fir and Scotch Pine trees were a commitment, had a role and purpose beyond the celebration of one Christmas. He provided instructions on how to keep them alive until spring if the ground was ‘too tight.’ He said that if the tree did poorly once replanted, to call him and he would help.
He dug every tree himself, explaining the importance of maintaining the main tap root, and the amount of ancillary roots needed for the tree to thrive. I would help him wrap the earthen bundle in burlap and tie it with twine, then placed in a wheelbarrow. and up to the driveway to be placed in the trunk of a car, or the back of a pickup truck.
My father showed his customers large stately trees on our property as examples of what they had to look forward to with their purchase, and how far to space them in planting. This ritual was his benediction to the trees, his blessing as he released them.
Our customers returned every Christmas for many years.
All of them, including my father, have mostly passed now. Whatever children who remain are like me, vintage folks. The many properties where my fathers trees traveled for Christmas, like his own acreage, have changed owners, purpose, and appearance many times and the families scattered.
All over Southern New Jersey, you can drive about and view a thousand or more of dignified majestic conifer trees. Alive and thriving, reaching skyward with amazing magnificent celebration of this life here on the planet and a genuine tribute to a man who loved clean air, the planet earth, trees, and Christmas. A man who inspired others about the value of deep roots and tradition.
Merry Christmas to anyone who reads this. I hope that your holiday season is filled with joy and celebration. This is my very first posting to my website and I appreciate you having showed up and that you are reading it. Please consider following along to see how this cyberspace adventure unfolds.