Family Traditions: Trees, Please

Family history – three trees!

My husband descends from a pioneering family that settled in the small village near our current home.  Immigrating from the Alsace region of France and Germany in the early 1800’s they were part of a small pack of persevering souls who established the quaint town that’s now more tourist destination than residential.  A haven for those who relish the opportunity to travel back in time, shop, nosh and recall simpler days.

We knew snippets of family history from my mother-in-law, Maxine, but believe the surface-level storytelling and limited sharing was the result of embedded, gender norms – favoring the retelling of patriarchal tidbits of family history much more than the matriarchal.  Sigh.  It was his mother’s family – not his father’s – who literally blazed a pioneering trail but her legacy and history were sidelined as less important.  How irksome; but that’s not the point – at least not at the moment.

Maxine’s great grandparents arrived on the plains and brought traditions from their wooded homeland.  Evergreen trees were plentiful in heavily forested Alsace and one of most endearing stories was the tale of the painstaking transport of three small evergreen saplings across the Atlantic. I can imagine some arguments about this – a sentimentality vs. practicality tussle – but how lovely that sentiment won, I say.

We often wondered if all the human travelers in the family made it to America safely, because the ‘tree tale’ was more vibrantly recounted.  Records are spotty, at best, even with the dynamic search engine tools like  At least three family members – the husband and wife and one child – arrived safely and a few cousins, it seems. 

Piecing together facts from decaying photo albums and journals, along with the family Bible yielded one fantastic find.  A simple red frame home that still stands in our tiny community was the homestead.  Built by the grandparents, three times over, and identifiable for years as theirs because of the three stalwart and regal trees that stood in their modest front yard. Evergreens.

Maxine, before she passed, acknowledged the ‘little red house’ built by her distant elders but she never mentioned the story behind the trees.  A local historian helped to fill those gaps using records long forgotten about the family.  The sweet crimson structure still stands – now converted into retail space.  Sadly, only two of the three trees remain.  One wonders what happened to the third. 

Discoveries about family history can come in large lumps or in tiny waves.  Learning about the house and the trees was like the latter – ancestral echoes that, once summoned together, created a spectacular story.   If only we’d drilled down more with Maxine to better understand the oral history, to supplement the archival tidbits stitched together. 

Time was not on our side; she passed AND years passed and it wasn’t until we bought a nearby home that the a-ha moments arrived.  Of all the remarkable aspects, one especially stands out and it’s about the three trees.

Across many years of married life, we’ve lived in several homes  – fixing them up and moving on – but with heavy hearts each time.  As much as we knew we’d miss certain features of each home, the greatest lament always involved saying goodbye to beloved trees. 

Without knowing it (at least in any conscious way) every home we’ve ever lived in was improved upon, landscape-wise, with the addition of three or more trees. 

Every home. 

Most received a cluster of three evergreen trees for decorative screening, shade, or wind control.  Often we planted more than three but always three together, somewhere on each lot. 

There’s more.  When our daughter was born, we wanted to instill a love of nature and conservation and decided an annual tradition of planting a ‘birthday tree’ (yes, an evergreen) would do the trick.  And we did.  As she grew, we finagled and fretted every spring…where will the next tree go?  An homage to family, in ways we never suspected. Three trees, please.

-Vicki ❤

10 responses to “Family Traditions: Trees, Please”

  1. Wow, what a lovely family tradition of planting trees – and amazing find of that family history which makes it so much more powerful! It gave me goosebumps and reminded me of the Chinese proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is today.” But you all have been planting them all along! Wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Wynne. The quote is familiar – but I didn’t know it was a Chinese proverb! Thanks for the insight and for your kindness, as always. ❤xo!


  3. I love the way you subtly tied the “family TREE” to the “living TREEs”. Great puns, great analogies, great POST!

    I do regret not taking the opportunity to learn more about my family tree when I had the chance. So many times we gain wisdom a wee bit too late?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Blushing — thanks for the sweet compliment, EW! Agree with you – learn all you can WHILE you can. Big smiles! 😊


  5. An Audience of One Avatar
    An Audience of One

    Amazing that the trees were brought overseas with them. And that the tradition has been carried on. The older we get, the more treasured these family traditions become – so cool that you’ve kept it going with your daughter!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree — it’s a fun and fabulous family tidbit, for sure, and you’re right — the older we get, the more important all of these traditions are. Take care and thank you so much. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I like this family tradition and am in awe that you were doing it, unknowingly. How interesting and kind of trippy. I wonder if you’ve passed on the “trees in threes” gene… 🤔


    1. Thanks so much, Ally! Funny you should wonder about the generational passing of the baton. Our daughter joined us for a bbq yesterday and invariably, the topic of TREES comes up between she and her papa. (No prompting from me whatsoever – they hadn’t seen the post.) I think she’s got the bug – the urge to plant – and chatted up the hubby about where THE NEXT evergreen should go – but also offered the input that a Japanese maple might be good – you know, to mix things up. LOL. xo! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. If you haven’t already, you must read the Gamache series by Louise Penny, especially the book ‘The Long Way Home.’ Penny writes about a Canadian village named Three Pines in which three tall pine trees, planted centuries ago, soar over the village and the community. These pine trees were originally planted as a code to signal those loyal to the British Crown who headed north during the War of Independence that they were safe in Canada. It was seen as an act of kindness for weary immigrants.

    So many reasons to plan trees and all of them are good!


  8. Thanks, Linda! You are a non-stop source for great book recommendations. “Three Pines” sounds like something I really need to read! xo! ❤


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