Tuesday, November 29, 2011

On Christmas Trees, Lost and Found - repost from Dec 2010

Stories like this one, are hard to believe, but you have my word that the things in this blog are entirely true.  It does beg the question though, why do I have so many of these things and stories happen to me?  I believe the answer is that God wanted my blog to be more interesting, so he continues to surround me with interesting people and events, and I haven't even told 10% of the good ones yet. Have I ever told you about the time I danced on Broadway?......

I lost a Christmas tree one year.  Go ahead, shake your head and scold me, I can already hear you.." Yarger, I can understand losing the remote, but seriously a Christmas tree?"  It wasn't like that though.  In my defense, that tree never even saw the inside of our house.... 

     Isn't life hard enough without starting harder traditions than your family passed on? Yes, but that's our nature in this family.  As far as I can recall my mom and dad never rounded the kids up and went off in the woods to cut down our own Christmas tree.  Now, that's not to say my siblings might not have done this with them, but by the time I started remembering things, I don't recall a single foray into the woods with my folks.  I have some vague recollections of picking one up at St. Mary's or from the Boy Scouts, but you can't prove it by me, that I was ever involved in an actual tree hunt.  Why then did Char and I start the tradition of bundling toddlers and all up and hiking through the tree farms to find the perfect tree that we all like and can agree upon?  Because we are stupid, that's why.
You can't see us, we are way, way, in the back
My family is at least consistent in this task.  We will hike the entire tree farm, no matter whose it is, or where it is, and always find our "perfect" tree at the furthest possible spot from where we started and will require the absolute most amount of dragging of the tree.  I think the kids do it on purpose because I make them do chores, it's payback.  One year we dropped our tree into a few feet of snow, tied a rope around it and tugged, and I didn't even shift it.  That was a fun next hour moving inch by inch to get way back to the farmhouse.  For the last few years we have gone to Darlings Tree Farm in Seneca Castle.  They have hot cider, they have the shaky thing that gets the dead needles off, the netty thing that wraps them up and they ship dozens of trees off to US soldiers abroad with the Trees for Troops program.  I highly recommend them.  This story, however, goes back about 20 years and the tree farm involved was on Rte 64 in Bristol N.Y.

 It was a few weeks before Christmas, and Char and I had heard about a good tree farm in Bristol NY.  We bundled up Molly, who was a toddler then, and my brother Ace rode over with us to pick out a tree too.
Dan, one year guarding his choice.

It turns out the tree farm was vastly overrated, and it took the better part of an hour before all of us found 2 trees that would pass muster.  We could only fit one inside the van, so we tied the other to the top with whatever we could find inside and headed for home.  We got about 1/4 mile away before the wind got underneath it and flipped it off the van and into the road.  After a mad scramble to re-secure it, we gave it a second attempt with the same result, we were 28 miles away from home and were destined to lose the tree every quarter mile. It dawned on me that my dad's recently built house was only a few miles from there and he had a pickup, so we decided to leave the tree on the roadside and go ask dad to borrow his truck.  This was not an easy decision, as my dad raised us all to be independent, and he likely taught Ben Franklin "Neither a borrower nor a lender be", but we had no choice, so off we went.  He really didn't give us much of a hard time and in less than 10 minutes we were back standing in front of where we thought we had left the tree.  I say "thought" because the area looked identical to where we had been....except there was no tree.
Ace and I examining the scene, I'm the pretty one. 

Now CSI was 10 years from being thought up but even Grissom would have been proud of our canvassing of the area and our identification of the pine needles that were strewn about. I think Ace even rubbed some deer dung between his fingers to test his working theory of the woodland animals needing a tree, but it was 2 days old so Bambi and pals were cleared.  What was left were 2 perplexed, cold, brothers standing on the roadside missing one out of two trees, and of course when we checked, it was my tree that was missing.  One of the only things worse than spending close to an hour combing a thin tree farm for a good Christmas tree, is to do it twice in one day.  Those were the hardest 25 dollars that ever left my hands, but after we went home and after it was up and decorated, it became like every other tree we had brought home, beautiful and ours.  I really didn't give it much more thought, that was, until 7 years later eating lunch at the end of that same road.....

     It's a good story so far, isn't it?  I agree, it lacks something, how about a surprise ending? 

     So that year I was on that road a lot.  I sold food to the local restaurants and my mom's house was there, so a couple days a week I would find myself on Rte 64 in Bristol NY.  A lot of weeks I would pick up food from Rumor's restaurant at Toomey's Corners and bring a cheeseburger to my mom and have lunch with her while I placed my morning orders.

Old gas station at Toomey's Corners (Rumors is back left)
It was during one of those times that I learned the ultimate fate of my misplaced Christmas tree.  As I was waiting at the bar, on one of these days,  just before Christmas again, I happened to start a conversation with a construction worker who was sitting next to me at the bar.  We introduced ourselves and got talking about the upcoming Holiday and whether we were prepared or not.  I, of course, told him of my trudging off into the woods the week before to get a tree, but I added "At least it wasn't as bad as the year I had to do it twice."  He curiously inquired how that happened, and I quickly told him my story of losing the tree 7 years earlier, totally convinced that I had the best Christmas story.   I was just as quickly proven wrong.  He set down his drink and asked me 4 rapid fire questions, "7 years ago?", "This Road?", "about 2 miles down?", and "on the right side of the road?"  I answered Yes to all the questions, and he laughed and said "Buddy, I think I found your tree that year".  He continued on to tell me the most fascinating story from the year that I lost my tree.  He was out of work, due to an ankle injury and times were tough.  He could still drive, but not climb ladders or do his job.  The night before his wife and him had discussed the looming holiday and decided to forgo the tree and to spend what little money they had on presents for their 3 kids.  The next morning, on the way to town in his pickup truck, he had come upon a Christmas tree laying on the side of the road.  He had assumed it had come off from a bigger truck carrying them, so he loaded it in his truck and brought it home to his family.
Nolan in front of his handiwork one year

He said that particular Christmas, to his kids, was indistinguishable from the others that they had, because of that tree.  He recovered from his injury and hadn't had a lean year since that one.  He insisted on buying both my mom's and my lunches and we shook hands, and I departed with a new found friend and a great story to tell. You see, my Christmas had been indistinguishable from my others too, I had the extra 25 dollars, and the time, so it hadn't impacted me at all, until he told me his story.  Then it impacted me, where it counts, in the heart, and not my wallet.  So I did lose a Christmas tree one year, but I got back a little of my humanity.  It was a good deal.


Daphne Mays said...

Awesome story, Bill! Too often in life we don't get to see how something we view as a loss or annoyance turns out to be a huge blessing to someone else!

Anonymous said...

What a great story. Finding out that a misstep on your part helped another dad maintain his status with his kids must have done your heart good!