Late buyers pine for the perfect tree

December 24, 2007|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,sun reporter

"Are you open?"

The question was almost always the first asked of Wayne Thomas yesterday by the customers who braved the wet and walked up the short driveway entrance to his tree farm in Manchester.

The answer: Of course.

After pointing them to the saws hanging on a nearby tree, and the carts for toting a selection, Thomas would stand back and watch as another family - father-daughter duos, mother-child-father trios - walked toward the rows of Christmas trees, searching for the perfect pine.

"You really see all types come out" in the final days before Christmas, said Thomas, who's had his farm more than 35 years.

It's not unusual to sell seven or more trees on Christmas Eve, he added. "That pretty well occurs every year."

For many of yesterday's buyers, procrastination had little to do with their visit to the 50-acre Thomas Tree Farm a mere two days before Dec. 25.

For them, the outing shortly before the holiday is a family ritual, a planned quest for the ideal evergreen to place in their living room corner.

Their decision to wait - and not buy a tree just after Thanksgiving like so many other families - echoes a centuries-old European tradition of putting up a tree Dec. 24.

A variety of reasons drive some families to shy away from the early-December rush: the desire for a tree that doesn't dry out too soon; time needed to prepare the house before decorating; and, for some younger families, an attempt to create a bit of Christmas magic.

In those households, they say, Santa brings the ornaments and tinsel for the newly acquired tree in the hours bridging the evening of Dec. 24 and Christmas morning.

"This is the day," said Wendy Mizenko, who came down from Hanover, Pa., yesterday afternoon with her husband and daughter. "We like our tree fresh."

The three navigated the rows of Douglas, Canaan and Fraser firs, blue spruces and white pines planted along the rolling hills, occasionally stopping to examine a potential choice.

"What do you want?" Dave Mizenko asked his wife. "Do you want a blue spruce this year?"

"No," she said. "They're too stiff. ... They're not soft."

She turned to her daughter, Sarah Mizenko, 23, who pulled a red cart behind her. "What do you want?"

"Not a blue spruce," Sarah replied.

They split up to continue their search. Minutes later, they found a good fit: not too tall, with branches sturdy enough to hold up ornaments - and a shape that would fit nicely into the family's designated spot by the wall.

"Yeah, that's the one," Wendy Mizenko said.

Her husband crouched down and began sawing away at the trunk, while holding a cigar firmly in his mouth.

Thomas, the farm's owner, said he grew up cutting down a tree with his father in the nearby pine woods right before Christmas.

"We didn't realize that our parents decorated the tree. We thought Santa Claus did," Thomas said. He and his brother were used to waking up Dec. 25 to see the changes made overnight.

That same tradition had the Elseroads setting out from their Reisterstown home yesterday with their 3-year-old daughter, Lauren.

"Go pick out a pretty tree," Brandon Elseroad told Lauren, who was bundled in a light-green coat and trudging along in pink-and-gray boots.

It didn't take long for her to settle on a modest Canaan fir, with some prodding from her parents.

"Go, Daddy, go," cheered her mother, Lisa Elseroad, who carried a camera around her neck to document their excursion.

"Timber!" Brandon Elseroad said, as the tree came loose. Then, speaking to Lauren, he added, "Yay! Our tree. Santa's going to come and decorate it for us."

In many cases, the children - like Lauren and Sarah - were leading the production.

Derek Montgomery, 13, pulled up his wagon to what he deemed the perfect tree, after other potential choices were rejected by his mother, Deborah.

"Dad!" he shouted to his father, John, while pointing at the tree.

"Where's your saw?" his father replied.

The boy looked around, then sheepishly said, "Trunk." He ran to retrieve the tool and returned a few moments later.

"Did you learn something from this experience, son?" John Montgomery asked.

Derek was quick to point out that he had been pulling the cart.

"Oh, so it's my fault," John said, as he cut down their selection.

After years of tree outings, Randy Cox and daughter Addison Spotted-Elk, 10, seemed to have settled on an easy routine yesterday at the farm.

"It's all her choice," said Cox, who established the ritual of getting a tree right before Christmas when Addison was 3.

"I just pull the wagon."

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