It was amazing to watch the culmination of this whole thing unfold in the span of one frigid evening.
Jay Gaulin, from Tree Tech was already there when I left early from work and pulled into the community center parking lot at 3:30 pm. He was hard at work pulling off the lights he originally installed almost three years ago making my own aspirations a reality.
It was cold, Really, really cold. 20 degrees F cold. We picked the coldest day of the season so far to do this. Perfect. Did i mention it was cold?
I unpacked a bunch of the the lights my wife and I bought after she covered the stores from the Back Bay to Providence as well as every one in between the two locations over two full days. She showed up moments after I got there in her own car to help me. What a trooper! She hauled the old lights away with the gusto of a marine in training while I checked the new sets to make sure they were ready to go. simple casual wedding garment with sleeves
As I worked below, Jay worked above, and the wind blew hard at times. We both felt for him way up there in the bucket. It's a lot colder the higher you go. And to say the least, this tree is simply a beast, stretching about 50 feet into the skyline.
The three of us figured we'd get this mission to fulfill Ray McKay's honorable wish fulfilled, and, when finished we would quietly disappear into the night. It worked for about an hour and a half.
Boy, were we cold!
Jay was cautioning me that he would not be able to string the new lights unless the other crane working in Wellesley showed up after the crew finished its worklog for the day. It was already getting dark and I began to quietly panic that this may not happen.
Two of Ray McKay's daughter's stopped by and said they were looking for warmer clothing so they could watch the progression. They let me know they would be back soon as they were very excited to see their dad's last wish come to fruition.
I quietly panicked while hoping the second crane would show up. It wasn't long before the truck blew by us headed up North Grove. The driver figured out our location about five minutes later.
My panic attack was subsiding now.
By then, Ray's daughters, Cathy, Sarah and Cindy returned with their mom Lou to watch the show. Just then, a third crane truck From Andy Felix ' company, Tree Tech showed up. That was a huge surprise and this event was about to get very interesting.
Jay Gaulin, Tim Burdick and Dan Andrews, all employees of Tree Tech, Inc. wasted no time in getting right down to business. I had 2,700 lights on 66 foot strings on the ground and ready to go. They piled them onto their bucket lifts and headed for the heavens.
While stringing the lights,some small branches came down in the process. Carolyn Sullivan, who made incredible greenery baskets (aside from carving many of those pumpkins at Sunlight Farm illuminated on Halloween) took a bunch of the greens to make a basket for Ray. What a fitting tribute.
Arthur and Bev Kelley showed up. Arthur told me the story about how Ray had him drive up and down the roads leading to this tree to see the original lights on it from all angles. They even stopped in the middle of the road to drink it all in. It struck a chord with me; I had no idea. Arthur was pretty moved by it; so was I.
Evidently, three cranes hoisting strings of Christmas lights garner a lot of attention. Neighbors, members of the community center and a few curious passersby started to congregate in the parking lot.
As the strings went up, the branches and lights swayed in the cold wind. Passersby started honking their horns in enthusiasm and support. Some of them stopped in to watch.
More people beqan to pull into the parking lot to watch the show, The McKays made a run to Dunkin Donuts and the grocery store to buy coffee and cookies for people stopping by to socialize and support the effort.
It was like a scene out of a decades old Christmas card.
It wasn't long before the parking lot was just about full and the
tree trimming turned into an impromptu Christmas block party. The Jaycees were having their own Christmas party inside while some children and a bunch of adults hung out in the parking lot enjoying the coffee and cookies as they watched the tree get dressed up from the top down.
Lynda Walsh appeared out of nowhere and gave me an impromptu hug. (Love that! I'd light up the rest of the town for another one of those!)
The Tree Tech boys worked diligently while people in the parking lot below expressed their enthusiasm for the project.
One of Ray's daughters pulled me aside for a moment to let me know that Mrs. McKay was smiling in a warm car watching this all unfold. She told me that her mom said Ray would have just loved this. It was validation.
By about 8 o'clock, the tree was fully lit. Jay, my wife Debbie and I were there since 3:30 pm and we were pretty cold at that point. You can rest assured Tim and Dan were too.
Jay mentioned that we should unplug the lights and make sure that everything was working properly when plugged back in to make sure no circuits would be blown.
Everyone in the parking lot turned it an impromptu tree lighting ceremony. The entire tree went dark moments later. Jay plugged in the tree and it looked like it lit up to the Heavens. Everyone in the parking lot cheered.
Mr. Ray McKay has a birds-eye view of all of this and the best seat in the house. I have the feeling (especially from your wife's comments) that you approve.
God bless you, sir. You're leaving big shoes in town to fill and will be greatly missed. Enjoy your tree as much as you did the ones you lit on Sunlight Farm, not to mention the pumpkins in the pumpkin patch.
This is NOT a Hallmark movie, people. This is real life happening right here in our little neck of the woods. And it feels good to honor a hometown hero. REAL good.