This is worth a take-two! We’re enjoying the series, “Three Pines” on Prime Video and it’s partly because of my dear friend Linda’s reminder that our familial love of trees…in threes…has its roots (wink!) in immigrant history. We had no idea! When I posted this piece in September, Linda shared:

“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.”

Enjoy!


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 by way of Canada, 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 North America safely, because the ‘tree tale’ was more vibrantly recounted.  Records are spotty, at best, even with the dynamic search engine tools like Ancestry.com.  At least three family members – the husband and wife and one child – arrived safely and a few cousins, it seems, settling in Canada. 

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 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 ❤

32 thoughts on “Three Pines? Who Knew!

  1. I was unfamiliar with the history of the three trees, but it’s amazing! My great-great grandparents immigrated from Germany to Port Hope, Ontario, so I’m now extreme curious as to whether they were welcome by a trio of pines. I love that you’ve (unknowingly!) paid a homage to your ancestors by planting a tree on your daughter’s birthday each year. What an incredible and touching post!! ❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Erin — I love you for reading and connecting with the story. I love surprising bits of family history. Keep me posted about any ‘trees in threes’ stories that you uncover. I’ll want to know all about it! ❤❤❤

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Art! I love the fun and fantastic ways we can find meaning…if we listen and look. Appreciate your enthusiasm about our family tradition with the birthday tree, too. Hope your Monday is wonderful in every way. 😘😘😘

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        1. I’m glad you like that sentence, but in truth, I think it’s borrowed wisdom from “The Book of Art” – your good encouragement — although you present it in more articulate terms than I do! 😉😉😉

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  2. Oh wow, this family history and your tree tradition gave me chills. What a wonderful legacy for your family, homes and the world. It reminds me of the Chinese proverb. “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is today.”

    And I love the Inspector Gamache series and the way Louise Penny portrays Three Pines. May we all welcome our weary travelers with such beauty and grace!

    Thanks for this beautiful post, Vicki!! XOXO

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What an absolutely glorious tradition you started with your daughter: I love it! And clearly she loved it, too, and cherished it. What an absolutely fantastic way to create a connection, a home, a legacy!

    I forgot where I read about an Indian man who over several decades revived a desert by planting a tree every day…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for your sweet comment, EW! Yes — it was such a cool thing to do when she was growing up…we had no idea our annual tree planting carried such significance as a long-standing family tradition. Sending hugs to you! 🥰

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Hubs and our daughter picked out new spots every year, trying to make everything look as natural as possible, varying the position of each new tree so they didn’t “line up”. A little forest! 🥰

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