Saturday, December 15, 2012

May's Christmas Trees: a family tradition like no other


Ms. B:

The emails started piling up in my in box shortly after your article in the Delaware County Times on August 14. I have to admit, I got teary eyed as I read that May's Water Ice in Chester, was closing. By the time my wife was able to read the email before coming home to work, she knew she would be greeted by a husband sitting front of a computer looking to book flights from Charlotte, NC to Philadelphia for a Friday in December.

Now you may ask why would a 32 year old man in Charlotte, NC voluntarily book flights with and 18 month old and get emotional and about a water ice stand in Chester, PA?

It is because the May's and their Christmas tree yard are a big part of our family Christmas tradition for almost 40 years.  With their family, our family and friends have officially kicked off our Christmas season every year of my life since I was born (I missed one year, living in another time zone). My parents have gone every year but one since they were married in 1974 (they were unable to find them in a new location in the late 70's), and my sister has never missed going in her 26 years on this earth (she works in retail and despite a hectic holiday schedule, she will leave late Friday night and return 4 hours later so she can get off work in time to come this year).  Getting our family Christmas tree at May’s continued to be the tradition despite moving and living 2 hours away to Ellicott City, Maryland from 1988- 2000. In 1988 another family joined our trip, we meet, get our trees and then tailgate. 

This tradition has been THE priority for many in 2 (and now 6) families since then. 

The trip has been worked around exam schedules at Saint Joe’s and Duquesne, work schedules, busy family schedules and other holiday commitments. On 2 occasions as a student, I came home from Pittsburgh during exam week just to go to May’s.  People think we are nuts, asking, “you tailgate to for your Christmas tree?” My response typically is, “yeah, why don’t you? its fun,” laughing. Inspired by my parents who taught us that you cannot put a price on “making a memory” together, this thing has taken on a life of its own.
We have watched Sonny’s grandchildren grow up, and their family has watched us grow up. As an 8 year old boy, I used to run the rows of tree's with my friend, Tim, trying not to lose track of my sister, Marykate, who is 6 years younger.  We played and collected green's that had fallen off tree's in the yard so our mother’s could put them around our family’s nativity scene. Last year, Tim’s son Brandon, now 3, ran the yard and my 6 month old daughter; Ella came strapped to me in her carrier.  This year they will run the rows of trees together like Tim, Marykate I did 20 years ago.

The tradition has inspired my mother has written a manuscript for a Children's book, "Going to Get the Christmas Tree", if for nothing else, so she can share this tradition in some way with future generations of our family.  

We have been very lucky to have some very special Christmas mornings over the years, but it is this tradition, a free one, that our families remember about this time of year. It embodies what Christmas is all about, coming together and celebrating with your with those closest to you.

The May’s are more than special members of Chester, PA, they are an institution in households in North Wales, Havertown, Drexel Hill, Chadds Ford, Media and Charlotte, NC

I have been reflecting a great deal on this tradition this week as the flights I spoke about above are set for this Friday. Again, our families, now spanning three generations, will load up and caravan into Chester to May’s tree yard this Saturday. We will hug Sonny, his boys and his employees, get warm by the fire, talk about the Eagles, look at a tree that they suggest, look for another, then go back to the one they suggested because, that's what we have always done. I will watch my daughter, 18 months today, run the tree yard like I did as a young child.  We will take a large group picture, then open the backs of our cars, blast some Christmas music eat sandwiches, pop a bottle of champagne, and celebrate Christmas together, because that’s what we do.

There is not tradition like it, and there will never be again.

Merry Christmas,
Chris Stulginsky