Christmas Trees For Sale

When I was 4 years old, my father lost his job on the Friday before Thanksgiving. All throughout his adult life, my father never once called in sick. Even so, due to the lagging economy that year, he and many other employees were laid off from the local aluminum factory. With less than a month before Christmas, a mortgage to pay and three children, my father had to figure out a way to support our family. My sisters were 7 and 8.

One week later, on the day after Thanksgiving, my mother walked 5 miles in the snow down to the shopping center in our town. Her plan was to apply at every single store until she found a job. The first store on the strip mall was Kinney Drugs, a small drugstore chain in upstate NY. She walked in and asked if she could fill out an application. Within an hour, the store manager had hired her. Because Christmas was just a few weeks away, he asked her if she could start right away. The following day she made the 5 mile walk back down to the shopping center and started working as a store clerk. My mother, who had been a stay-at-home-Mom for 8 years, was now supporting our family. She was making minimum wage, less than $6 an hour that year.

*

With Christmas just weeks away, my father decided to take advantage  of  the  season. He thought that maybe he could make some money by selling Christmas trees. Since my mother was now working full-time and we were all too small to stay home alone, Dad loaded my sisters and I into the car and drove us out to a tree farm in Brasher Falls, about 30 minutes away.  When we got to the farm, my father asked my sisters and I to get out of the car. That’s where he left us.  He drove off and we never saw my parents ever again. [Just KIDDING. Just wanted to throw some humor into this sad story.]

At the tree farm, my oldest sister, who was 8, helped my father find the best looking trees while my other sister and I played in the snow.

Dad tagged as many of the best trees as he could find and hired a man to deliver them all back to our house. Later that afternoon, a giant truck pulled up in front of our house and delivered 75 beautiful Scotch Pines. My sisters and I helped Dad tie ropes to the trees so we could drag them into our yard. Living in upstate NY, we had several feet of snow, which made it much easier to display the trees. Dad arranged them neatly in rows, leaving  room  for  potential  customers  to  walk  between  and  around the  trees as they searched for the best ones.

Being only 4, I didn’t really understand why our small yard was now suddenly overflowing with Christmas trees. And I’m not sure what our neighbors thought. But what I do remember is how much fun it was suddenly having 75 trees in our front and back yard.  While Mom was at work at the drug store, my sisters and I were outside in our snowsuits with Dad each day, running and playing in the snow and interacting with the customers. It was a small town, so I’m sure many people knew about our situation.

And even though Mom wasn’t making very much money, Kinney Drugs was one of the biggest toy stores in town at that time. Employees were able to make purchases at cost (which was less than half price), including toys. And because my sisters and I all believed in Santa, Mom made sure there were plenty of presents under our tree that year.

One afternoon a man named Ross  Violi, a local business man and owner of the most popular restaurant in town, came by and bought enough trees  and  boughs to  decorate  his entire restaurant for the holidays.  He could have purchased Christmas trees from anyone else in town. But instead, he decided to buy them all from Dad. Anyone who knows the Violi’s knows what a wonderful and generous family they are. And to this day, my family is very grateful they were so kind to us that year.

After that, word spread throughout town, and soon we were running  out  of  trees.

What had started out as as a risk had paid off. Once again, we made another trip back to the tree farm with Dad for 75  more  trees.

With Christmas only a week or two away, the second load of trees disappeared as well and soon only two or three trees remained in our yard.

On Christmas Eve, there was only one tree left. Just before dark there was a knock at our front door. Outside, a man was standing on our front porch. Dad recognized him. He was a local elementary school teacher with several small children of his own. Because our town was so small, Dad knew he was unemployed too.

He asked Dad, “How much for the Christmas tree?” It was the only tree left on our lot. For several minutes, Dad tried over and over again to get him to take the tree for free. But despite Dads efforts,  and the man knowing that Dad was out of work, too, he insisted on paying for it.

*

Santa visited our house that year and my sisters and I had more than enough presents. I can’t tell you what gifts I received that year. And at the time, I had no idea that Dad had lost his job.

What I do remember is how much fun it was having our yard temporarily transformed into a winter playground filled with snow and hundreds of beautiful Christmas trees. I also remember how Dad, in between selling trees, had  turned part of our back yard into a small skating rink for my sisters and I.  He made trip after trip from the house for boiling water, carrying it out, one kettle at a time, and poured it out onto an area of snow he had smoothed out and turned into a rink, so that my sisters and I could skate in our back yard.

And I’ll never forget how both of my parents, working as a team, made sure that my sisters and I had one of the most beautiful and memorable Decembers I will never forget.

Tree_Winter

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Little Girls

One daughter falls asleep each night with a book in her hands, quietly observing life from the edge.

While the other prefers to explore the world first hand without question or fear of consequence or boundaries.

Wildly different, yet equally beautiful.

I often wonder which will have the most fulfilling life.

Most likely, both.

 One runs and sings and laughs without care. She is the devil on your shoulder. She has no inhibitions. She once said, “Mommy, I don’t think I have a conscience.”  And of course I laughed. She simply sparkles and delights.

The other is quiet and submissive. She is thoughtful and calm. Until she is not. She can be the butterfly that lands on your hand. And in the next moment, a quiet storm.

And from all outward appearances, they would seem to be the same. They both have soft brown hair, perfect smiles and eyes filled with wonder.

But one giggles shyly when she laughs, while the other lights up like a hundred fireworks.

A man I once loved told me “Your girls are everything that you are.”

I can’t imagine a more beautiful thing to say to a mother. Because even on my worst days, when I don’t like myself very much, I still look at them in amazement.

Because they will both always be my two favorite people.

My heart.

Missing Pieces

My aunt Georgia had 7 children. Her youngest son, Nathan was born the same month as me.

He was only 6 years old when he was riding his bicycle in front of their house and was hit by a car.

My aunt  heard the crash and the screams and she went running out to the road.

But there was nothing she could do. It was too late.

Her youngest child died in her arms.

One week earlier, Nathan had brought home a craft he had made at school. It was a Mother’s day bouquet of flowers he had made out of an egg carton and colored pipe cleaners.

Like all children, he was always bringing home drawings and crafts from school and many found their way into the garbage can.

After his death, my aunt frantically dug through the kitchen garbage can, tears streaming down her face, desperate to find the egg carton flowers she had mindlessly thrown away the week before.

She found them and she sat on her kitchen floor, clutching them in her hands as she cried and cried.

Life is cruel to us this way.

About ten years after Nathan’s death, while they were out for the evening, my aunt’s home burnt to the ground. Nothing was left.

Only rubble and the charred remains of what had been their home.

Everything was lost.

But somehow, two things were salvaged and found in perfect condition: Nathan’s baby spoon and the bouquet of egg carton flowers.

Life surprises us this way, making us believe that perhaps miracles do happen.

* * *

On the day of my aunts funeral a few years ago, in her open casket lying next to her, was the bouquet of egg carton flowers that Nathan had made.

She had saved and preserved them for almost 30 years.

I was sad that she had passed. But she had lived a long and beautiful life. But when I saw the egg carton flowers, it moved me to tears.

* * *

Each one of us is unique. And we will meet very few people who will fit perfectly into our lives, much like a missing key.

Like a missing piece that perhaps we didn’t even realize we were missing – until we are lucky enough to find it.

And when you find someone like this – your missing piece – you fucking hold onto them for dear life.

And if you should lose your missing piece, you desperately hold onto the things that remind of you them:  like old photographs, or an article of clothing that still bears their scent, or maybe a cherished object.

Most times, the object we cling so dearly to, was something that meant nothing to us while that person was still in our lives.

Like egg carton flowers.

* * *

And now you are gone and I think of you every day. And there are no egg carton flowers to haunt me.

Only memories and dreams and plans and promises and words spoken.

And words not spoken.

No matter the circumstances – by death or otherwise – losing someone you love is painful.

There is an ache in your heart that never goes away.

And the beautiful memories torture you, keeping them alive in your mind.
Imagining they are close enough to touch, but never seeing their face again.
Like a beautiful angel that is just out of reach.
It tortures your soul and tears you apart. But you have no choice but to live with it every single day.
Because, what other choice do you have?
You never get used to the pain or that feeling of loss and it feels just as raw as it did the day you lost them.
And with each day that goes by, part of your heart dies a little more.

1a1EggFlower

The One and Only…

The night before my girls headed to the beach with their Dad, my 8yo got into trouble.

We were discussing my exBF and she used a series of very descriptive curse words to describe him. I will not say exactly what.

But imagine the worst.

I was not happy.

Her punishment was to copy an excerpt from the James Mollison’s book, “Where Children Sleep.”

For those who are unfamiliar with this book, it is worth Googling. [See link, below.]

She was not happy with this punishment, but she went off to write anyway.

Before I went to bed, I found this card [photo’s below] neatly folded on my pillow, written in her hand.

These are her exact words, verbatim. Keep in mind she is only eight years old.

The cover: “To: The One and Only Mommy.”

Inside:

Dear Mommy,

I am so sorry for saying that word….  I understand that D. is a good person and that I got a little worked up. He hurt you and that is why I get mad. I know that sometimes I can say things that are not good and that’s what makes me mad, too. I can get mad over the littlest things sometimes. I am probably the luckiest girl to have so many chances in my life. Maybe it’s because I’m spoiled. But if it is than you know what? I am sorry for being that way. It can also be because I have the best Mommy in the world. 

But whatever the reason, or explanation, I am sorry and I want one more chance. It now might be my 1 millionth chance, but I am so sorry. I promise that I will keep my feelings to myself.

Please, one more chance. I will love it.

Love,

M.

It’s hard to believe she is only eight years old. And I’ll make sure she never keeps her feelings to herself ever again.

Xoxo

Here is the link to Mr. Mollison’s book:   http://www.jamesmollison.com/wherechildrensleep.php

  

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