Saturday, December 1, 2012

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time a young man and a young woman with stars in their eyes met in the mountains of North Carolina, fell in love and married. The year was 1942. In 1943 the young husband put on an Air Force uniform, kissed his wife and baby daughter goodbye and, after basic training, was sent in November to Latrobe, Pennsylvania for college training at St. Vincent College. He spent his nights in a dormitory surrounded by men but dreamt of finding a home in Latrobe where his family could stay and be with him on Sundays. His big brother begged the ration board for tires (retreads) and gas coupons and drove the young mother and daughter from North Carolina to Pennsylvania. There among the snow-covered trees of Latrobe the young parents celebrated their first Christmas with their firstborn.


After the terrible war ended, the little girl went back to the mountains of North Carolina with her mama and daddy to spend the next two Christmases with uncles and aunts and a cousin nearby.


Christmas of 1947 found the young couple moving to Tennessee to live in a mansion--the two bedroom, one bath, newly built cottage was a mansion to the husband and his wife, their little girl and her baby sister. On each Christmas thereafter the little cottage held the freshest, largest Christmas tree that would fit in the corner of the living room because the girls' daddy had a magical job. Eleven months of the year he was an average American man working for the Kroger company buying produce for stores in their city. But come December he turned into Mr. Christmas Tree and met the railroad cars that traveled from as far away as Canada to bring Christmas trees to the Kroger grocery stores.

At first there were the two little girls to help decorate the Christmas tree, the older one with brown curly hair and the younger one with brown wavy hair. Always their were aunts and uncles and cousins around.


Then came the Christmas that there was a third little daughter, this one with blonde hair, and the year after that she was old enough to help her sisters decorate the Christmas tree, or the lower branches anyway. Santa Claus must have brought her a baby doll, probably a girl baby doll, not a boy doll named Joe like her oldest sister had asked Santa to bring.


The three little girls grew and the Christmas trees grew with them, as large as the living room would hold, finally in a new house with three bedrooms and a bath and a half. No longer did uncles have to sleep in the bathtub. But one wonderful uncle came the week before Christmas each year and took the three sisters away in his magic sleigh to visit another uncle and aunt for three magical days of cookie baking and crafts and spoiling by the two uncles and a darling, darling aunt. One year the magic sleigh was a small airplane that hurt the sisters' ears, but most of the time it was a magic train that chugged out of Union Station with the sisters and their uncle aboard, laden with wrapped packages.


Then came the year that a fourth child was born......a daughter, a second blonde just a few weeks old at Christmas. The next Christmas it was her turn to get a baby doll and see the biggest, freshest Christmas tree ever.


Four daughters! What's a father to do? Pretty soon it would become time to begin saying his goodbyes to daughters and welcoming sons-in-law, or at least to become resigned to them.


One thing the father could do was begin a new career. He could stop buying Christmas trees for the Kroger Company and begin buying them for his own garden center. Eleven months of the year he was an average American man who sold bushes and trees and mulch and fertilizer. But, oh, in the month of December he became once again Mr. Christmas Tree. This time customers not only had the choice of every green Christmas tree from Canadian balsams to Scotch pines and white pines (North Carolina Frazier Firs did not come unto later years), but they also had a choice of a fairyland of breathtaking snow-flocked Christmas trees.


A new grove of white Christmas trees appeared magically every morning, having been created by a master's touch during the night.


Ladies-in-Waiting throughout the kingdom brought their lights in for the tree of their choice, to be put on before the magician snow brushed the Christmas trees in white--blue lights, white lights, colored lights.


Tall threes, short trees, skinny trees, fat trees.

Snow-covered trees for everyone except for the four sisters. They were their father's daughters. They loved for their Christmas trees to be as green as the field from which they were cut. But, oh, the wonder of visiting and playing in the garden center full of lovely sparkly Christmas trees.


And that first son-in-law welcomed into the family of four daughters? He was busy learning to flock Christmas trees, learning it from the artist's hand.


To be continued.


Have a very merry December!


22 comments:

  1. AAAUGHH to be continued ?? I was having so much fun reading that ! :)

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    1. I'm so glad you had fun reading it and I will finish it in a day or two. Being up 2 nights with a sick dachshund has left me feeling dull of mind and I think, "Oh, what have I gotten myself into? And two misspelled words in this post?" I try not to panic and be willing to wait for a good night's sleep and maybe the rest will come.

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  2. Can't wait to read the rest!

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    1. Hi Jan! So nice to meet you here! As I told Debra above, it may be a day or two before I write the rest of the story as I've had a sick doggie to care for, but I'll just do what I did before--spread the pictures out before me and want so much to be able to write about the special part that Christmas trees have played in my childhood and adult life, and then say, "Oh, Lord, how do I do this?" After that, the words "Once upon a time" came into my mind and I felt such joy and excitement writing it. I'm hoping that happens again. Sometimes it's just a matter of plodding along and even I am not excited about what I've written, and it shows.

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  3. Beautiful story you left me hanging!! Love the pictures!!! can't wait for the rest!!

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    1. Thank you, sweet friend! The pictures that tell the rest of the story are all my husband's and I'm hoping to sit him down tonight and let him tell me again about those days when the Christmas tree business were such a huge part of our lives. I also have a call out to our oldest son and our daughter who were young kids at that time to tell me what it was like for them to be running around the garden center at Christmas. Thank you for reading!

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  4. Another WONDERFUL story, you have such a TOUCH!

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    1. Thank you, dear friend! It makes me so happy to know you enjoyed it. I had a wonderful thing happen last night. I was talking to our youngest son on the phone and he said that he really enjoys reading the family history on this blog, things he was too young to remember or at the time didn't really listen to but loves hearing now. That is the best part to me, to think that family stories will get passed down.

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  5. Oh I can't wait for the rest, and I love the old pics!

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    1. Thank you, Teresa! I'm so glad you liked the old pics. They're treasures to me.

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  6. Loved the garden center and those flocked trees! But, I thought I remembered you have at least one or two of those trees in your home in Madison?

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    1. Maybe there was after I was married. I'll have to ask the girls. None of them, all very computer savy, have been able to figure out how to leave comments. They have all told me they love reaading the blog. Maybe some day!




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  7. Your shares are always so heart warming. I am very happy I found you thru Brenda's blog and can visit often. Enjoy your weekend dear one! I love these black and white photos. Reminds me of my own childhood! The story is so touching!

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    1. Thank you so much, Anne! I love visiting yours too. Old photographs do trigger so many memories.

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  8. Sis, mother would have Daddy flock her one with blue lights and she would decorate with blue balls, for the living room window. The green tree in the den was ours to decorate however we wanted but the white one was for mother only. Some of my best memories were being at the garden center during that time, it was so magical !

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  9. Hi Little Sister! It's so exciting to see you here! I guess my memory cut off when I got married as to what was going on at the old house. Now I remember seeing a picture of our niece as a small girl in front of a white tree with blue lights. I always thought of Dad as the Christmas magic maker in the house so it makes me smile to think of Mom decorating a white tree with blue lights on her own. If you come across a picture of it, could you please email it to me and I'll try to include here this month. Love you!

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  10. Love, love this story, Dewena, and am eagerly awaiting more1

    xo
    Claudia

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    1. Thank you, Claudia! That means so much to me, and I do hope to get it up soon. R.H. went for an unexpected trip out of town today to look at a house one of our sons is hoping to buy so it might be tomorrow before I can sit him down to dictate to me his memories.

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  11. Oh I remember those white flocked trees. They were so pretty. We had a Christmas tree farm for 11 years and it was much to much hard work for us since my husband still worked elsewhere full time.

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    1. Yes, Christmas tree farm work must be such hard work and not a lot of profit. In visiting ones in Avery County, North Carolina with my father and husband the owners were independent characters, tough old guys. It still always seemed like a dream job to me to be among Christmas trees year round. Maybe you can answer a question for me...why can't nurserymen grow trees with spaces between the branches to hang ornaments? I see trees like that in British magazines but almost impossible to find them in America. Thanks for reading!

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  12. Hi Dewena,
    I enjoyed reading your story and am eagerly anticipating more. I'm so glad you visited our blog because here I am enjoying yours. I remember many trees from my youth. They were all cedar trees that we cut down in the woods. Today the smell of cedar always takes me back to those years. Oh, and those flocked trees do look so magical. I had a flocked tree several years ago. It was beautiful but I was vacuuming up the flocking for several months!

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  13. Hello Jane, of the beautiful mantel of green and silver and pine and burlap! I am so glad you enjoyed the story and the post continues tomorrow. I too love the smell of cedar. We have some large ones here in the hills and I always love bringing some of it in for the scent. I don't think there is a conifer I don't like. Thank you for visiting.

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