O Christmas tree!
In annual ritual, families descend on Ashland lot
Mickey Robertson, 9, recently rode 485 miles from his home in northern Maine to a town near Boston and was rewarded at the end with some hot chocolate. That’s what his dad said was Mickey’s favorite part of the Christmas-tree delivery trip, the hot chocolate in Ashland.
Along the way, Mickey also got a view high above the highway and to spend time with his dad, Mase, as the broad-shouldered, good-natured Marine veteran drove a green Freightliner cab pulling a 53-foot trailer loaded with Christmas trees from Allagash View Farms to Lions clubs in Medfield, Medway, Wrentham, Stow, and Ashland.
Every year, a few weeks before Christmas, trees arrive in lots like the Ashland Lions Club’s, and families like the Pisanos set out to pick out that special tree to take home.
“The tree was an executive decision,’’ Kristin Pisano said with a smile on a recent Saturday. She nodded toward her sons. “They agree with everything we say.’’
Five-year-old Joey Pisano’s eyes got wide as the volunteers put the tree into the hatchback and its tip poked out. He seemed concerned where he would sit.
“Uh-oh. Tree’s coming out,’’ he said.
While his other mom, Raylin Pisano, and the volunteers worked to shift the tree across the front-seat console almost to the dashboard, Joey and his brother Lucas, 4, talked about Santa and Christmas over candy canes the Lions had provided.
Lucas said he is hoping for a track that allows cars to travel on the wall, while Joey described the Elf on a Shelf he regularly reports to, who lives by the stairs, communicates with Santa nightly, and flies.
It takes about eight years to grow Christmas trees, so the specimen in the back of their car was probably about as old as Joey and Lucas combined.
Ed Cyr’s Allagash View Farms, where Mase Robertson worked before starting his trucking business, has about 60 acres divided into eight growing areas. Each fall 10 to 12 students from the University of Maine Fort Kent work part time to cut the trees. Planting for a future crop starts in the spring.
The Lions sell two types of fir trees. Tom Heguy, the Ashland club’s secretary and this year’s chairman of its tree sale, now in its 25th year, has an easy way to describe the difference: a balsam has more smell, a Fraser means less mess.
Thomas Mikkelsen of Holliston knew the difference and picked a Fraser, a fir that is native to the warm Carolinas and loses fewer needles indoors leading up to Christmas. Mikkelsen, his wife, Lisa, and 10-year-old son, Clark, who were glad to be choosing a tree unhampered by gloves and snow, passed several Christmas tree lots, some with lower prices, on their way to the Ashland Lions Club’s offerings alongside Route 126.
“I wanted to buy one from a place where the money was going to something,’’ Mikkelson said.
The money raised from the tree sales goes to Lions Club projects, which include youth soccer, T-ball, senior breakfasts, lunches, meals on wheels, food pantries, school programs, the Medway-Ashland Wildcats girls’ youth hockey team, the Lazarus Organ Donor program, diabetes programs, NEADS service dogs, and the service organization’s dedicated charity, eye research, with the goal of eradicating blindness.
But there are other reasons people buy Lions Club trees. Norah Cox, 3, picked a beauty for Ashland residents Beverly and Matthew Henderson, who are her Bee and Papa. “Because it was pretty,’’ she said.
Marley Hanson and Tara Dorval bought a huge first tree, easily as big as their small car, for their new Framingham apartment. They cuddled their tiny dogs, Josie and Pops, while the Lions threaded tie lines around the tree, through the interior and to the front bumper. If the tree was that big on the car, what about their apartment?
“We’re going to kind of move ourselves for the tree,’’ Hanson said.
Eileen and John Avisa of Medway made three stops Friday night and three on Saturday morning before picking a 10-foot tree as wide as it was tall at the Ashland Lions lot.
“We have a cathedral ceiling and a perfect space for this tree,’’ Eileen Avisa said. She hoped her four children would be thrilled, and the family’s two cats not thrilled enough to try to climb it.
Avisa said her family collects ornaments wherever they go on vacation. This time of year brings back not only memories of Christmases past, but of family journeys.
Andrew MacNeil brought girlfriend Ashley Pardi from their Back Bay apartment to the lot in his hometown to buy their tree, continuing a family tradition. “They have better trees,’’ he said.
Joe and Laurie Yannone, who recently moved to the suburbs from Quincy, bought a tree so big for 8 1/2-month-old Will’s first Christmas it couldn’t fit on the car. The Lions would deliver it.
The volunteers at the Lions tree lot embody Christmas with unhurried good cheer. If Mickey makes the tree-delivery ride from Maine next year, it will be his fourth year of hot chocolate in Ashland. High school students will again help unload the trees.
Cars will roll out of the lot with trees on top, and profits will go to charity, all in a relaxed seasonal counterpoint to the crush of shopping malls.
That vibe keeps buyers like Ashland’s David Jenkins coming back year after year. Finally, he’s perfected the best way to choose a tree. “It was close to the car,’’ he said.