My dad was born in a farmhouse. He had very little growing up. At least that’s how he always told the story. His family was pretty hard up.
His most valuable possession was a transistor radio he’d bought at a department store when he was a boy. He’d listen to the radio shows in the 50s. “Abbot and Costello” reruns. “The Jack Benny Show.” He’d listen to ball games. He’d root for Mickey Mantle. Roger Maris. The “Say Hey Kid.”
Otherwise, he didn’t have squat.
Which would explain why my father headed up the Christmas tree committee every year at the fundamentalist Baptist church (motto: “Buying life insurance is a form of gambling”).
My father would gather up donations from anyone and anywhere. He would shamelessly ask for money. He would even resort to sending paralyzingly cute Little Leaguers door to door, selling cookies.
The money earned would be used to buy balsam firs. He bought truckloads of trees.
At which point people in the church would submit addresses of families who needed help
for Christmas. Whereupon my father and his army of his friends would deliver trees in early December.
Every year, I would go with Daddy on these deliveries. Each year, we would load dozens of balsams into the bed of his F-100. My father would have a clipboard of addresses. And we would drive into the hinterlands, wearing Santa hats.
One night, I remember riding into a little trailer park, way out in the sticks. I remember how dark it was in the country. I remember my father parking the truck in front of a single wide trailer.
We walked up to the mildewed porch. Daddy carried a tree over his shoulder. We rapped on the thin aluminum door. When the door opened, a young woman was staring back at us. A baby on her hip.
Daddy insisted that we sing “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”…