- Associated Press - Thursday, December 24, 2015

LEXINGTON, N.C. (AP) - Christmas trees have long been a decorative staple during the winter months, often standing tall in a living room or foyer, used by many to welcome guests and share stories with the ornaments that spread across them. Patsie and Bill Baker’s trees are no different.

The Bakers have so many stories, in fact, that it takes six fully decorated and themed trees to tell them all. Another nine trees are scattered around the house as spin-offs pop into mind. Carefully placed around the house are trees representing many of their passions. A cardinal tree, for example, shares their love of the red bird that can often be spotted in their yard. An angel tree shows off Pastie’s love for the symbol and the generosity of her friends.

“These trees are our lives; they tell a story,” Patsie Baker said. “I know a lot of people have a lot of Christmas trees, but we do it with such (passion). It just tells who we are and what we are. It means a lot.”

The Bakers’ home overlooking High Rock Lake spends nearly a quarter of the year dressed to the Christmas nines. The decorations must be complete, Patise Baker said, before Thanksgiving, forcing her to start the work just as October comes around.

“I’ve got to have these trees ready for Thanksgiving because that’s when my six grandchildren come to spend time with me, and that’s what I want them to remember,” she said. “I’m on a different schedule than most people. This place has got to be ready so when they run in, that’s the first thing they do.”

But the trees are not limited to the enjoyment of family. Every year the Bakers host a church gathering to celebrate the season and enjoy an estimated 80-100 visitors including old friends and coworkers throughout the winter months.

Visitors are so frequent the Bakers began charging admission. One canned food item serves as a ticket in the door. All food donations are dispersed among ministries such as Pastor’s Pantry in Lexington.

Pastie Baker said her passion for Christmas and the trees that come with it goes back as far as she can remember. She even has documented proof.

Reading from a journal entry her late father, Les, wrote after Patsie’s first Christmas, she is comforted by the familiar handwriting scrawled across the note.

“I think my most enjoyable Christmas,” her father wrote, “was our daughter’s first Christmas. At the time, she was 10 months old and she was a very happy young lady. We had a wonderful Christmas season and the highlight of her first Christmas was the Christmas tree. She was completely captivated with the tree. It was the last thing she saw at night and the first thing she greeted in the morning. The word pretty was added to her growing vocabulary. She always addressed the tree as pretty and spent long periods of time just looking at it.”

It’s a treasure, she said, that she shares with her three children and grandchildren every year and a natural memory she hopes lives on long after she is gone.

“I don’t know how many more years I’ll have, but I would love to continue this because it’s a tradition,” she said. “They can put that together with me, and that’s my legacy that I’m leaving for my kids and my grandkids.”

While Patsie Baker deserves credit for nearly all of the trees and their design, she said her husband is stuck with most of the grunt work. By the end of January, the artificial trees have been broken down and placed with their ornaments in their respective containers. Bill Baker is tasked with hauling the containers to a storage area under the house where they will stay for the spring and summer months. It’s a chore the musician and avid painter is more than happy to do.

“You can look at trees and you can look at the object of the tree and how nice, shiny and colorful it is, but all these ornaments have meaning to us,” he said. “They remind us of something that is special about life. It could be our family, our friends, work or travel, you kind of relive your life with these trees.”

Speaking on his wife’s passion, Bill Baker said it was one of the first things he loved about her and found it telling of her personality.

“That’s the way she lives,” he said. “She likes the excitement of life, and she wants to get as much out of it every day. Christmas is an opportunity for her to do that.”

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Information from: The Dispatch, https://www.the-dispatch.com


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