My Big Grandad (as opposed to Little Grandad - yep, that's what we called them), was a Navy man. He was a teacher. He was an assistant principal. He was a disciplinarian. He was a tinkerer, a DO-er, and the kind of guy who didn't know how to sit still (except for the dozing on the couch in the middle of our huge family gatherings that he did so frequently).
He was all action, and so I think many people only saw the Navy/Principal/Disciplinarian side of him. He definitely had a gruff side to him.
But to ME, he was the guy who named me his "Sweet Tootie" (hence the name of my business), sat me in his lap to watch TV, shared his Vienna sausages (I know, yuck) with me, and let me watch M.A.S.H. with him when I spent the night at his house. He was the guy who, shortly before he passed, walked me out onto his property to show me an old, beat-up car, that he was going to fix-up for me to have.
And most importantly, he was the guy who one day decided growing Christmas trees and opening a "cut your own" tree farm was a good idea. He did it, I'm sure, because he enjoyed hard work and a project. But I think the softer side of him did it becuase he enjoyed being able to help families find that joy and take it into their houses.
The tree farm was a family affair. Thanksgiving weekend, all the families would walk out into the trees and tag our trees so no one else could get them. Then, all the cousins would decorate a "Charlie Brown tree" somewhere in the middle of the farm for folks to stumble upon in their search. Once we opened for business, we all helped out. We carried saws and measuring poles for people. We helped shake the trees (to get the loose needles out) and bag the trees. We even sold little bags of mistletoe shot out of other trees on the property a few years.
I learned from a very young age the magic of Christmas trees. There is a joy in finding THE tree (or, rather, as I like to think, letting the tree find YOU). There's something special in searching for and bagging up your family's biggest reminder to be joyful EVERY SINGLE DAY during Christmas. This big hunk of evergreen will hold the magical, twinkling lights under which your family will dream each evening. It is an ever present and hard to ignore reminder of the EVERLASTING gift God gave to us at Christmas.
Yes, Christmas trees are magic. My heart flits each time I look at our beautiful (yet undecorated) tree that we bought this weekend. (His name is Bruce, by the way, and he picked us as soon as we walked on the tree farm.)
And this weekend as I spent one day on a tree farm sharing the magic of a tree farm with MY Sweet Tootie, and the other day working our church's tree lot - helping other trees find their families, I thought of Big Grandad endlessly. There are a million things he gave me and taught me for which I will always be grateful, but for me, my heart's eternal connection to him will forever lie in the gruff, disciplinarian teaching me the MAGIC and WONDER a simple tree can bring.
I love you, Grandaddy and I miss you everyday, but more than I can describe each Christmas.
Love & Shipoopies,