Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The Tree Lot
Every year for the past 30-some years my family sold our own Christmas trees on a little lot in Delaware. My dad would spend a week to two weeks up at the farm in the end of November, cutting trees and then bailing them, loading them, driving the 6 hours to Delaware, and unloading them in to trailers at the lot. He was very proud of the freshness of our trees. We were told that some of our trees lasted until Easter (we have to give credit to the people who were keeping these trees too...they must have known exactly what to do!), and we had customers who came every single year.
Helping people find their tree was always an interesting experience. Some people were picky, others were not. Some you could show a tree and that was it. Some you could show a tree, and another and another and another...and another...and guess what? They went back to the first tree they looked at. Others still, would not like anything we had out, and would ask us to look for a tree back in the trailer. Almost every time we had to pull a tree out of the trailer, the person would take it. I always wondered why that was. Did they think it was fresher? They always said it was because we were good at finding exactly what they wanted. But I'm not too sure of that. :)
I loved the way the lot smelled. Nothing beats the smell of fresh Christmas trees in my mind. There are a lot of people nowadays who ask the age old question...should I buy a fake tree or stick with a real tree? I can never argue for a fake tree (goes against my principle!) but I just couldn't see not having the smell of a fresh evergreen at Christmas time. Not only that, but did you know that Christmas trees use more Carbon Dioxide as they grow then regular trees do? So, cutting and re-planting is actually good for the environment...even though a lot of people use the argument that cutting live trees is bad for the environment (it is NOT true).
After my dad passed away, I took over the lot. I ran it myself for 4 years. Long-time customers were surprised that I remembered the trees they always wanted, but I had watched my dad closely the year before (the only year I worked with him the whole month of December), and I am lucky I have a nearly photographic memory. If I didn't know what they wanted, I made sure to take notes so I'd remember the next year. It wasn't always easy running the lot. It could be cold, wet on rainy days, or even boring standing outside for 10-12 hours a day. But I loved the people. I loved finding them the perfect tree, and felt pride at how much they loved our trees. I loved making wreaths for them and hearing their stories about previous trees or why they had loved coming to the lot and talking to my dad. Some said they would never buy a tree elsewhere, and made sure every year it was the same family selling. I loved that the kids would remember Jasmine and ask me where she was because they wanted to play with her.
There was a changing of hands when my dad passed away...a very unexpected one. His death was a shock...he had seemed so healthy and wasn't sick the last time they bought their tree. A lot of our customers cried when they found out he had passed away...they cared about him. But they came to care about me. They had heard stories about me for many years from my dad, and because of that, they felt they knew me. They were happy I continued to sell trees. It was a tradition in their family to come to our lot, just as it was a tradition in mine to sell trees.
This is my first year not being at the lot. Last year was my last. I didn't have the guts to tell our customers we wouldn't be back, even though I knew, because I didn't want to see the sadness on their faces. It was a difficult year for me at tree time last year. I cried a lot after we shut down, knowing I wouldn't see any of those people again. I cried thinking that I probably hadn't sold the best tree to some people, even though that was the tree they wanted...and hated it was the last tree they would get from us, and I cried thinking about the fact that they would show up this year and wonder where we had gone. It was out of my hands though, and no matter how badly I wanted to continue to sell trees...there was no way I could, as our farm was being sold (not by my choice...long story).
It has been a bit of a struggle for me not to be at the lot in Delaware this year. I feel quite a bit of loss. My mom has called me several times to let me know that people have called asking where we were. And it makes me sad.
There is the part of me that knows, that this is probably for the best. I have moved on in my life...I am married now, and spending 6 weeks away from B to sell trees, just isn't really feasible. With our new house and responsibilities, it would also have been very hard to continue my responsibilities at the tree farm had I been able... But, that doesn't always make it any easier. The other part says I could still do it, I would find a way. That part feels it is so ingrained in who I am...that it feels wrong to not be there. It tells me if I had really wanted it...I would have done it. And it hurts.
This year will be the first year in my 26 years that I will have a Christmas tree that is not one of my families. It will be the first time I will go somewhere and pick one out with my husband. The start of something new at the end of something else.