Traditions can span generations

The word “tannenbaum” comes from 16th century Germany, and though it has changed its meaning several times, constancy and faithfulness are what it symbolizes to most of us.

Sally and I have been going out to one farm or another to cut an evergreen for Christmas since before we were married.

Usually we would choose a Scotch pine because of its durability and the firmness of its branches. Ornaments can hang on them securely. It is the variety that seems to hold its needles the longest.

We usually got our tree three weeks before Christmas and did not take it down till after Twelfth Night.

A group of friends joined us over the years to go cut Christmas trees. I remember great discussions about which was the best tree, the fullest, had the straightest trunk and the most consistent green color.

Sometimes we took the first tree we saw; sometimes we hunted for an hour to find the right size and shape while throwing intermittent snowballs at each other.

Sometimes it was warm and the ground was wet and muddy; sometimes it was cold and the ground was covered deep with snow but we persevered.

After everyone had found his or her perfect tree, we would go to someone’s home for cider and doughnuts or supper. The tradition was carried on for a long time. People in the group married and had families and carried their babies out for the Christmas tree cutting.

Finally, one year, Cy said to his teenage son, “OK, Ned, this year you have to carry me!”

When our children were really small, I would wear a “gerry carrier” made of canvas and tubular aluminum on my back with the baby in it. When I had to get down on my hands and knees to cut the tree, I would find a more substantial tree to lean the carrier against while the baby slept on.

The first few years after we came to Warren, we went to several tree farms, but for one reason or another, we were not satisfied. Then Sally met a new friend at AAUW and discovered that she and her husband owned a Christmas tree farm. We decided to try it the next Christmas.

We found Whispering Pines located off a well-marked dirt road in Mesopotamia. There was ample parking for incoming cars and there was only a short wait to get on a wagon pulled by a pair of Clydesdale horses. It took us out to the variety of trees of our choice.

Passengers on the flatbed wagon, the tree cutters, included a pair of longhaired Newfoundlands. Our children, and later grandchildren, loved to play with the dogs. There was also a supply of Swedish tubular saws for those who did not bring their own.

An extra-added attraction was that we would meet people who came from all over northeastern Ohio in search of a tree.

Other features that we enjoyed at Whispering Pines were the friendly atmosphere and the roaring fire in their big barn. There were hot dogs, marshmallows, Hershey bars and graham crackers, which each cold, hungry tree cutter could toast as he or she would like. Coffee and cocoa were in ample supply. There were also tables of pastries made by neighboring Amish women for sale.

Owner Sandy Williams or one of her daughters would take a picture of your family or group to be saved till next year, when you could sort through the pile of photos to find yours and take it home. All of this was included in the cost of the tree.

This is one of our experiences with constancy and faithfulness, which we enjoyed, but we hardly recognized the value of it until a year ago we found that Whispering Pines had been closed and the Williams were going to move to Florida because of illness in the family. We were so disappointed!

Then we learned in early December of this year that it would reopen under new management. So we went again for our tree and found the new owners are hospitable and that they are carrying on the traditions of Whispering Pines. We wish them well.