A Sugar Mountain Christmas Story
About a year ago this very week, I was calling all of the Nags Head and Outer Banks customers to come by and pick up their Sugar Mountain Wreaths and Garland, Christmas orders. Like all the years before, the orders were handmade and hand picked, and of course hand delivered by the "Big Tree" man himself, my Daddy, Wayne. I was feeling the spirit of Christmas come over me as the aroma of the Fraser fir and other varieties of greenery arrived at my door step. A flood of memories of Christmas' that have come and gone filled up in my heart. I thought back on all the years of hard work that this family business requires. I vividly remember my mother, Molly, loading trucks in freezing rain and sleet, weighing "tips" in the snow and looking for wreaths in the cold, dark, night so she could fill a specific order. I think about the wreath makers lined up and down the hall ways of her shop whose faces I recognize from many wreath seasons passed. Their hands black with sap, as well as the clothes they are wearing. Often times the children of the workers have tagged along, looking in need of a bath and warmer clothes. But they are silent and content in the warm shop waiting along side their parents who have come to see “Miss” Molly. She gives the orders for them to fill, she writes their checks for the finished orders and my dear Mama, is the only one they want to deal with or see.
Shortly after the goods were delivered, my customers were beginning to arrive at my home in Nags Head. Everyone was eager to get their greenery and their decorating under way. I helped folks load up their items and received payments of cash or checks for their orders. The spirit of Christmas was in the air and everything was going well. After everyone had picked up I used the left over items for decorating my own home and took time to have a good visit with my Dad. This time my nephew Wyatt, who was 13 years old at the time, was with him. He was glad to come along and help work especially if meant missing a day of school. Daddy and Wyatt had a 410 mile journey from Nags Head back to Sugar Mountain, but there was one more item on their list, the "Daniel Tree". This memorial tree was erected to honor a man whose Christmas spirit and love for life shined and will continue to shine much brighter than a little tree full of lights ever could. Wayne, with a heart much larger that his wallet, was determined to light a tree in Dan's memory for all to enjoy. It was a smaller tree than the year before, but a heart felt one. (A tree, by the way, that could easily become a 50ft tree with the right sponsorship.)
So, as Daddy and Wyatt were ready to hit the road, I kissed them good bye. I put the money from the sale in an envelope and placed it in what I thought was a safe place in the truck. As it turns out, the guys hit some snowy weather on the way and had stopped after dark in 1 or 2 places to eat and, or fuel up. They arrived home late and I called my mom to make sure the guys and the money had been properly delivered. She said the guys didn't unload the truck because of the snow, but that the money was locked up safe in the truck at the bottom of the driveway. The next day she called and asked me where else the envelope of cash and checks might be, it was not in the truck. I certainly sent it, but still I frantically searched my house and car for the envelope. I began to get upset with my dad for loosing it and myself for not just depositing the money and mailing one check to my mother. Embarrassed, I reluctantly called my customers who paid by check and asked them to stop payment on their checks and that I would pay the bank fee if they could re write them. I was so upset, but my mother calmly said, "It will be okay, there is nothing we can do about it". How could she not be up set about this? A lot of money was lost and the hard work was for nothing.
Almost 2 weeks later. I get a phone call from a customer. Not just any customer, but one who had ordered the most at the sale. She had written a check, stopped payment on the check and then re-wrote a check. When I heard her voice, I was terrified that something else had gone wrong, maybe with our greenery or that she was unhappy. Then she said "Carolina, you are not going to believe this". My heart stopped when she explained that the envelope with all of the checks including hers and every bit of the cash had been mailed to her. She said she felt that the letter was strange upon receiving it because her address had been hand typed with an old fashioned typewriter. The letter had no return address on it and was impossible to decipher where it was postmarked from because the ink was smudged. Tears streamed down my cheeks. I was so relieved that the money had been returned. Then after hanging up the phone, I thought how amazing it was that the sender wanted no recognition for it, no reward or that they even sent it back in the first place. I just wondered and wondered about the person who could have found an envelope somewhere between Nags Head and Newland, NC. It was a plain white envelope with "Sugar Mtn. Wreath" written on it, that's all. If I saw an envelope lying on the ground I would have left it alone thinking it was trash. But if I did decide to pick it up and open it, would I have been so honest? Who was this kind person? Was it a person? Are there Angels?
Now, you can imagine how excited I was to call my mother and share this incredible story. She of course was happy to hear it, but she reacted just as casual about the money being returned as she was when it was lost, like she new it would come back in some way or form. The next person I called was my dear friend Evelyne, Dan's wife, to tell her the news. She too was surprised, then said to me, "You know that money came back as a result of Wayne coming down to do a tree in Dan's memory". Then it really hit me, like the anonymous sender, Wayne wanted no recognition and no reward either. That's what he does best, that is who he is. I have been inspired by the people in this event and I hope you will be too…
....and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
~ Carolina Hartman; Naggs Head, NC