||| Orange County Register |||
The husband and wife duo of Gina and Joe Mistretta have been blessed with what appears to be a “Christmas Miracle”, where they've kept a Scotch Pine Christmas tree alive for 34-years straight in their Southern California area residence.
The absolutely mind blowing feat is one for the records, considering that's nearly 13,000 days that they've been able to keep a living tree, well, <i>alive</i>.
The Mistretta family says that in 1983 when they purchased the beautiful Scotch Pine, it cost them around $20 total, which if you adjust for inflation rates today is around $49; which is the typical asking price for a Scotch Pine in 2017,showing that it's the value of the dollar which has went down, <i>not the price of the tree</i> that has went up.
However, because the family has been able to reuse the Christmas tree for over three decades now, I'd say that's quite the <i>bang for your buck</i> and really defines the meaning of <i>stretching the dollar</i> as far as it possibly can be extended.
The Scotch Pine is a glorious traditional Christmas tree, which has a timeless characteristic, being used in Christmas Classics such as <i>A Charlie Brown Christmas</i>, which I would venture to say there isn't an American in the nation that doesn't recall fuzzy memories of hot cocoa and pajamas in the middle of winter watching the film.
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For the Mistrettas though, the Scotch Pine is dear to their heart. Think about it, it's as important to the family as the family pet, which has sat through thirty four years of protecting the freshly wrapped presents, and appearing in family Christmas photos with them.
Even more extraordinary is the fact that the tree itself has been filmed using Polaroids prints, in the eighties, to eventually large VHS camcorders, to minidiscs as they appeared in the nineties, to the evolved and slimmed down microcassette tapes, until digital storage would become available and filmed with an SD card; and now of course, being used with a smartphone for the past several Christmas seasons to capture the spirit of Christmas and the love of family as they unwrap those shiny gifts that Santa delivered for Christmas morning.
The couple however says they're not sure the <i>actual age of the tree</>, being considered a mature tree when they purchased it; but they can at least say that their Scotch Pine is senior to their oldest child, since they bought it after their marriage during that first Christmas as husband and wife, and prior to their first son being born.
"We figure out how long we’ve been married by how old the tree is," Joe joked in an interview with the<a href="https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/12/19/theyve-kept-their-christmas-tree-so-long-34-years-its-part-of-the-family/"> Mercury News </a>just last week.
In the year 1986, the Mistretta family gave birth to their eldest son, when young Joseph was born.
Later in 1988, the family moved from La Habra to Irvine, and had their tree carefully strapped in the back of a moving van to take with them.
Again in 1990, they had given birth to their second son, Michael.
The boys, who are now men aged 31 and 27 respectively, have never known another tree.
“I just hate coming down the street (after Christmas) and seeing people put out their tree,” said their youngest son, Michael, reminiscing of those full trash cans and empty boxes that line the sidewalks the garbage collection day after the holidays, as we've all seen.
The pair said that after the first year, they had such a sentimental attachment to the living tree that they didn't want to just toss it into the trash as most families do after Christmas.
“It was sad to throw it away,” Gina Mistretta said.
The family developed a tradition each year, where on the day after Thanksgiving, the family takes off the ornaments from the tree from its place of storage, on their patio, where they keep it alive year round, and moves it inside the house.
They also say that when they decide to move it, it's become a home for praying mantises, and they then release those into the wild to save them as well.
The tree also plays a major part in the family’s history. During the holidays, its branches are adorned with a homemade clay gingerbread molded by their son Joe, that he made back in Kindergarten.
They then place cardboard and glitter bird ornaments which come from their own parents, dating back to the 1940s, to sit on other branches; as well as a gondola that they bought on a family trip to Venice together.
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The tree in itself has grown to a distinct, “bent-shape”as it tries to collect light sources from the sun on the porch, twisting itself into the direction of that appetizing sunlight the other 11-months out of the year.
“Some people need a perfect tree,” Gina Mistretta said. “That’s not us. We want something sentimental; colorful.”
It's actually quite a bold move in keeping the tree, and they benefited saving the planet in doing so with their small act of generosity, whether they realized it at the time or not.
Cal State Fullerton Professor John Bock, the Director of the school’s Center for Sustainability, said, “By a conservative measure, the Mistretta’s family tradition has captured at least 1,088 kilograms (or nearly 2,400 pounds) of carbon dioxide.”
Professor Bock continued, “That’s equal to not burning about 1,200 pounds of coal. Or, to put it in a couple other ways, it’s the same as switching 36 incandescent light bulbs to LED lights, or driving 2,668 fewer miles in an average gas-powered car, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.”
“And that doesn’t include the greenhouse gas emissions the Mistrettas didn’t generate by not having a fresh cut tree trucked down from Washington to Southern California 34 times. By contrast, a natural tree bought each year for the same amount of time would generate about 374 pounds of carbon dioxide. A fake tree that is discarded every five years would use about 277 pounds of carbon dioxide over 34 years”, Professor Bock said.
For such a unique experience, in keeping a tree alive for 34-years, the family says they're proud of their decision, and have grown to love their Scotch Pine; and also they could never live without it now.
With the Mistrettas now being retired, they have decided to pass on their tradition to their oldest son Joe, who lives in the Bay Area with his girlfriend; and they have their own two-foot tall potted tree, and plan to re-use it in the same fashion as they grow a family together.
Michael, however, might eventually inherit the tree that started it all. Scotch Pines typically live 150 to 300 years, and the Mistrettas have no plans to ever stop using their tree.
“You’ll spread our ashes in it,” Joe Mistretta joked.
A beautiful Christmas story, with a beautiful Christmas-spirited family telling their tale.
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