A Christmas Remembered- A Mitzvah for Christmas
When I was a teenager Butch and Frankie were my closest friends. They lived on the next street right behind my house. For about four Christmas’s the three of us would set up a tree selling lot. Butch’s uncle was a truck driver and would often be in Wallabout Market in the Bronx. Each year he would pick bundles of Christmas trees for us to sell.
Bill Steck had a candy store on the avenue across the street from the Long Island Railroad. Bill allowed us to run an extension cord to the adjacent lot so we could be there at night all lit up for business. We had an oil drum with the top cut out so we could have a fire to keep us warm.
We bought the trees for $5 per bundle, there were 5 trees in each bundle.There was usually one great looking tree which we could get $5. The remaining trees were less perfect but that is where we made our profit. If a tree was a “Charlie Brown” loser we’d cut off the branches and make wreaths
In the early afternoon on December 24th a man named Eddie from the other side of the tracks came looking for a tree. He looked for a while and quietly slipped away. Eddie had 4 children and he did not want to disappoint them by not having a tree.
We were all poor in that neighborhood but Eddie was a little more poor than most of us. He walked by our lot looking wistful and sure he was out of luck. He didn’t even stop.
“Hey Eddie. Come back in an hour we’ll have a tree for you” I shouted”Ok but I don’t have much money” “Don’t worry”
Butch and Frankie looked at me and asked what I had in mind.”We’ll build him a tree”
We got out the hand drill and started drilling holes in the stem of this pathetic looking tree. We had plenty of branches left over from our wreath making and when we stuffed that stem full of branches it was a great looking tree.When Eddie returned we brought forth the tree.”What do you think?””Looks great. How much?”How much ya got?”I only have 75 cents”
Eddie gave the money to Frankie. Frankie pressed the money back into Eddie’s hand and wished him a Merry ChristmasAt that point Eddie hurried home with his tree.
About a week after Christmas we saw Eddie on the streetI asked “How did the kids like the tree””Oh they thought it was great, but few days later the tree dried out and all the branches and the ornament wound up on the floor but it was great on Christmas morning, Thanks guys”