O’Christmas Tree O’Christmas Tree

As I was sitting on my porch this morning on a rather warm morning considering this is December, I reflected back on yesterday’s activities. It was time to buy a new Christmas tree. During my life I have bought a large number of Christmas trees. In the early years the trees were real (not artificial). When I was very young my dad would take me to a tree lot and we would cut down a tree and bring it home. And then when I had my own family I started out the same way. It was during one of those years that I realized the danger of having a real Christmas tree in my house. This is not to say that everyone should not buy a live Christmas tree. But rather look at the surrounding physical conditions before you going to put up the tree and then make a decision whether to buy a live tree or an artificial tree. In my case my house was full of children and pets. I had several cats in the house and they being a curious animal would commonly play with the Christmas tree. This resulted on several occasions the tree to tip over. The trees were usually full of electrical line for all the lights on it. After hearing about a house that was burned down because the Christmas tree caught fire, I decided to do a little more research. I would normally make sure that the tree trunk was placed in water with a little sugar in hope that it would keep the tree young and the needles green.

One year after Christmas was over I took it the tree out behind the house, very far from the house, and I set it on fire just to see how hot it would get. I was amazed at how quickly it went up in flames and out supremely hot the heat was from the fire. I then realized that there would be no saving the house or anyone in it should my Christmas tree catch on fire. So it was in that year that I decided to buy an artificial Christmas tree. There is truly a large selection in the type of tree you can buy. I can remember in the 1960s that people bought Christmas trees made out of silver are completely flocked with white fake snow. Once I decided I wanted a natural looking artificial tree (what irony) probably 5 foot tall, artificial tree. I must’ve brought out five boxes of just ornaments to put on the tree. So by the time the tree was finished being decorated it was severely overdone. So the next year the tree got taller and the boxes got fuller of ornaments as it became a family tradition to give other family members a tree ornaments for Christmas. Eventually the tree, which was at least 9 foot tal, would take up a good portion of the room in which it was placed. I would set up a system of electrical outlets with surge protectors and then try to hide them somewhere behind or under the tree. The cost of the ornaments went from very inexpensive to very expensive. The view of a very simple Christmas tree with lights and a few ornaments gave way to very like serious looking Christmas trees with but a little bit of the actual tree showing. During those years the Christmas tree was as large as possible so it could accommodate all the gifts that were going to be placed under it. It almost always was placed next to a window in the house so that the neighbors and passerby’s could see that my family celebrating Christmas.

Since those days my young children have grown to be parents and they also place Christmas trees in their homes. The debate still goes on between the families about whether to use a natural Christmas tree or an artificial Christmas tree. At least one son is experiencing the” I’ve got to have a bigger tree this year”. He and his wife have decided to go from a 9 foot tree to a 12 or 15 foot tree. And another son will place a very small tree in his house. Each of them will have the debate about whether to buy a live Christmas tree (although I don’t know how alive it is after it is cut) or an artificial tree. As always they will fill the trees with both personally made and professionally made ornaments. And of course all the trees Christmas tree lights.

I am happy that my children are carrying on the tradition of the Christmas tree. It is a symbol of joy and it becomes a labor of love after all the years. No matter where you are in life he should have a Christmas tree. Even when I was divorced and living in a very small apartment I put a 3 foot tall very anemic looking tree in the apartment. I was reminded of the cartoon character Charlie Brown and his pathetic looking little Christmas tree. Even something that small brings to mind the joys of Christmas. No matter what religion you are and no matter what you call this time of year, it seems to have evolved into a season a joy for all.

Our tree this year was downsized from last year’s tree. Now that it is just the wife and I, we do not need the same amount of space under the tree to place presents. Probably like most couples a who have been married a long time, they’re just a few presents for Christmas. We seem to think it’s Christmas all year long as we try to buy everything we want during the year and special request are addressed on Christmas. But no matter how many presents, there will always be some sort of package under the tree. Whether you’re six years old or 60 years old it is still a site that brings joy and happiness. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and I hope that your tradition includes a Christmas tree in your life.

Pops

ITS LIKE FALLING BACK IN TIME

As I was sitting on my porch last night and realize I needed to go to the store in the morning, I thought of the two stores that I’ve been impressed with since moving to a rule area.  So this is a tale of two stores. The first store is a grocery store which is in the center of a small town and it seems that the same store chain is in many small and rural areas.  It is not a superstore, a club storre or warehouse.  IT has its own meat market and features fresh vegetables every day.  Although the selection is not that of the superstore it seems they have a good selection of products that I would normally need.  The checkout stands are small but they use the code reader to process my groceries.  The shopping baskets are smaller than most stores I’ve gone to in the city.  What really stands out is that after they bag the  groceries they take the groceries out to your vehicle and load the groceries into the  vehicle for you.   During  my first visits I tried to tell the young man or woman bagging my groceries that they do not have to help me to my car.  Then I was informed by those young people that its store policy that’s they take the groceries to my car and they would get into trouble if they do not do so.  Once that I got comfortable to that idea I tried tip the young man or woman.  Once again I was informed that they were not allowed to take tips.  In the beginning I found it awkward to have help to my car and have my groceries place in my car by store personnel, usually the young person that baged my groceries.  But then after few visits I realized that was the charm of going to the store.  I had been used to going to large superstores who had trouble keeping up with the many shoppers so much that many times at bagged my own groceries.  And I was always suspicious of any one trying to help me to my car.  The small store chain, even though it is small and that a little more for my groceries. has made me get at ease with someone help me to my car and loading my groceries.  It felt like I fell back in time where store owners were very concerned about customer service and kept a personal touch apart of the way they did their business.

The second store was an auto parts store that had been in a very small town for over 65 years.  It was located in a dated building which looked like an old gas station located next to the railroad track.  During my first visit to the store and Ifound out that the owner had started working at that auto parts store at the age of 14.  He was about to turn 66 years old when I spoke to him.  Unlike the big auto part stores in the city this store seemed to be back in time.  It even had a rocking chair in the middle of the storm for customers to sit down and talk whether they were buying a part are not.  The the store had two bays in the back filled with wooden racks, car parts and car lifts.  The mechanic a the young man carrying a rag in his pocket and a stained baseball cap with a fishing hook on the bill the cap.  While I was there another customer has looking for part for very old vehicle.  The owners thought for a minute and went back behind the counter to the storage area and came back with the piece the customers looking for.  The owner stated that he had had that part for 40 years.  The owner was very busy in local charities and social clubs.  With pictures of youth baseball teams his store had sponsored.  I found myself going to the store because of the feeling of being back in time where customer service was a personal issue with the owner.  Several months later as I went to the store I overheard a customer talking about the store closing.  Shocked I went to the owner who confirmed that the store was closing.  After 65 years of business in this small town the growth of the area had brought several large auto part change stores close enough to take most of the business away.  I told the owner that I felt sad that he was closing the store.  He and his store were part of the history of the area and I’m sure many people who had trusted his advice and counted upon his store to take care of their auto needs felt the same way.  He stated that he could not keep up with the prices of the large chain stores and therefore he was time to retire and close the shop.  I asked him why one of his family members was not taking over the shop while he retired.  He stated he asks them to and they were not interested in doing so, the larger auto part stores made it impossible for his store to continue to exist.

This story of two stores, one continuing to exist and one going out of business, I’m sure is going on across the nation.  I believe that personalize customer service still continues to exist.  I have found it in expensive steak restaurants from our nation’s capital to a small stakehouse in a small village on the Pacific Coast highway.  As our population continues to grow and the ability of a business to keep up with new demand seems to make things impersonal, I hope that personalized customer service comes back.  Whether it is the continued use of a doorman at a building, a business, a hotel or a bagger taking your groceries to your car at a grocery store.  The two stores that I mentioned contributed to the quality of life that I enjoy.  I will continue touse the grocery store and I will miss the auto parts store.

Pops