Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas Traditions - Installment Three

Or we could call this "How M-Cat found her Christmas Spirit of 2010"

In Salt Lake City, we have a yearly benefit called Festival of Tree's.  The money it raises goes to Primary Children's Medical Center.  This was it's 40th year anniversary.

My friend the Gypsy Grandma has been involved for as long as I have known her (22 years?).  Some years I have had time to serve on her committee and some years I have missed it altogether, but we have made a real point the last several to make sure and be a part of it, if all we can do is attend one night.

Families or business's create trees that are then auctioned off to the highest bidder.  Every single thing is donated.  From the trees, decorations, wreaths, gingerbread houses, gift shop items, Santa's corner.......EVERYTHING.

The trees usually have a theme surrounding them and often involve more than just a tree.  Most of them are decorated in honor of a child who has passed away, or is sick and spending time at PCMC.  Many are done in honor of adults who has passed or are fighting enormous battles of some kind.  Whatever reason, most of the trees have significant meaning behind them and some very touching stories.  It's hard to not come away feeling blessed and full of good feelings for others. 

In fact, every year I have been involved in some way, I hear a story or meet someone that deeply touches me and I always remember the Spirit that I feel when I remember that while this is a joyous time of season - it is also a very hard one for so many others.

One year, I was working the gift shop and it was early, so not too busy.  A lady working was with me and we started some small talk.  Before I knew it, she was tearing up and sharing why she was working.  Within the previous 3 months she had lost her young daughter to a freak bicycle accident.  She was devastated and her friend that was on the FOT board suggested she get involved as a way to heal.  We were perfect strangers, but all of a sudden sharing a very special moment as she talked about her daughter, the accident and how she was coping.  I have never forgotten her.  I remember distinctly having the thought: "There, for but the grace of God, go I.  Life can change in an instant and can never be taken for granted.  She inspired me with her story of dragging herself out of her bed, putting on a skirt and coming to the expo to volunteer.  I vowed I would be a more grateful mother.

Another year, our bonco group was there at the end of the last night breaking everything down and boxing them to get the trees delivered to the people or business's that bought them.  It was about midnight and there was so much work to be done.  I was tired.  You know how midnight and I are so rarely acquainted.
As I helped, I watched everyone else around me work.  Some of the ladies had been there from open to close the ENTIRE 4 days of the festival. They work non-stop.  And many of them would get just a few hours of sleep before they were up and driving a truck finding the addresses of where each tree belonged.  I was in pure awe of their efforts and energy.  Our group had shown up at about 10:30 and we had strong men and boys lifting and carrying, while these women were right alongside them.  Why do they do this?
The children.  The babies, the kids, the small, precious souls that need medical help.  That through no fault of their own end up in the hospital and need care.  I came away grateful for my own children's relatively good health and figured I would need to continue to support this great cause if for no other reason than to build up some good karma!  I vowed I would work harder to help others.

One year, I was there on decoration day.  I was sitting at a table selling pins and Festival vests.  Right in front of me was a family putting together their tree.  Now, keep in mind, you can't just put up an artificial tree.  It has to be mounted on a pole and every decoration wired down.  It's a lot of work.  It was clear that the people involved were a family doing it on behalf of someone special as I sometimes caught tears as they worked.  I watched for several hours and marked their progress, knowing that they had a lot more to do to make their tree just the way they had pictured it.  Just the way, they had dreamed it would be in honor of whom they were doing it for.  I vowed I would appreciate the hard work of the trees and decorations much more.

This year there were several trees that had been done by friends and family that I wanted to be sure and see.  Splenda met Sissy and I and off we went. 

Santa's corner

where they have all things fun for kids.  Crafts, balloons, snacks, Santa, dancing shows.  A kid's delight.  Even a small gift shop that the kids can buy their own teachers and friends gifts.

Then aisle Q to find three that I knew were there.

Our friends John and Donna had their business do this one for  Sweet Brinley

My friend and her sisters did this one for their mother who is battling breast cancer

And of course Debbie's
You can read about the buyers here - it's a cool story

Then aisle O to find my cousin's.
both she and her husband are firefighters with the United Fire Agency - it was a tribute to a Captain they had lost.
The Fireman's prayer had me blubbering

Then the wreaths to find two wreaths that I was told were there for some kids (never found them)
and then after getting some food and checking out the gift shop we wandered the aisles and I stumbled on another for a friends grandbaby.
Casi had twins last year.  Ava and Aiden.  Sadly Ava passed away shortly after she was born.  This tree was called  Angel Babies.  So sweet!

Others that caught my eye:
This giant mushroom made out of gingerbread!  It was amazing

This was in tribute of the sweet baby you see in the drawing there.  All things little girl.

This was called No Place like Grandma's  (you see her there in the picture).  Every fun thing that could be at a Grandma's house!  I loved it

And who wouldn't love THIS one?  This might have been one of Sissy's favorites!

They are all so beautiful!  So much work, effort and love into each step of the process!  And what I love most?  You can tear up and cry as you walk the aisles and no one even bats an eyelash - they are too busy choking back their own tears!

After a couple of hours, Sissy had had enough and we headed home.  She was pleased with her balloon and bubble experience.  Splenda was inspired by the craftsmanship.  I was humbled.  Feeling grateful, and having a full heart for all things Christmas!


Untypically Jia said...

I totally miss the festival of trees! A few years ago (okay like 6 I think) a lady that I worked with got her whole family together and made a GIANT Christmas tree out of beer cans (not joking) and submitted it to the festival of trees. Caused a big stir if I recall. LOL

Valerie said...

Thanks for posting this! I was hoping to make it up this year, but I've been sick!~One of the trees is in honor of my sister-in-law that died of cancer this last July.
I love the FOT~ Everything is always so beautiful and so much time, effort and love goes in to each and every aspect of the festival.

wendy said...

I have always enjoyed Festival of the Trees and reading the stories behind each tree.
You are right, it is humbling and inspiring.

It took every ounce of effort to put our tree up is up, but not decorated yet.
I want to do Christmas
and I don't
I will have to dig deep for the Chritmas spirit this year.

tiburon said...

I have never been - but you got me to tear up but that is saying A LOT.

Take me with you next year!

Cheeseboy said...

I'm big on the festival. I really enjoy it, especially the stories behind the trees. If I were rich, I'd buy one every year. So cool that you are there so much.

" Hit It......." said...

I wish I had gone to the festival this year. I need a little Christmas spirit. I agree with you. Looking outside yourself and seeing what other's have gone through; makes you focus on the true meaning of Christmas!

tammy said...

Thanks for sharing all those pictures. They really tell the story of what the Festival is about. My friend's Grandmother was one of the founders of the Festival, and every year since their family has done at least one tree, if not more. I love it.

Mae Rae said...

I can see why this would give you the spirit.

The Blanchard Family said...

I always check in on you and I am such a bad commenter!! (I do realize that is not a word ;) Anyway, I have always loved the FOT, but it is almost too much for me to go and see all the sad stories. . .until this year when I see it from a different view point. It was so much fun to put together that tree for Ava and literally pour blood, sweat, and tears into it! I was amazed at all the creativity, talent, and genuine love that was there on decorating day. Thanks for posting a pic of our special tree!

Garden of Egan said...

Oh my goodness!!! That looks so incredible! I would love to go see that.
I love your stories.
You shared some pretty tender stories.
I'm off to check out more.
Thanks for sharing this.

Teachinfourth said...

I've been there before…they do something similar with gingerbread houses, too. I'll tell you that some of those are simply AMAZING.

It was great to see you yesterday!

Scrappy Girl said...

What a fun event. The trees are all gorgeous. I love the stories behind them.

Mamafamilias said...

These look gorgeous. And the bubble thingy Sissy was in - way too fun. However, cry babies like me are forbidden in events like that.