12/28/17 — A family of trees

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A family of trees

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on December 28, 2017 2:26 PM

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Hannah Rouse, one of the Wilkines' children, checks a section of trees.

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Trees in the section for grandchildren and great-children wait to be lit.

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Great-granddaughter Lucy Rouse, holds her tree to be placed in the area of the yard for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Kenneth and Betty Wilkins consider their children, grandchildren and great-grandchilden one of the best Christmas gifts they could have ever received. And the couple has found a way of having their family near them during the holiday season.

They began putting up Christmas trees in their front yard each holiday season, each of the five trees representing one of their children, Hannah Rouse, Ken Wilkins, Brandt Wilkins, Charlie Wilkins and John Wilkins.

That was about 20 years ago, said daughter Hannah. These days, the couple have the original five trees for their children, 13 small trees for the grandchildren and eight smaller trees for their great-grandchildren.

"I like the trees," Kenneth, 96, said. "We put them up every year. The trees mean the children.

"To look at all those trees makes me feel old," he said laughing.

But these days, Kenneth and Betty, 93, usually let the younger ones put up the trees and sometimes watch from a window inside. But the emotion is still there.

"My dad has always enjoyed decorating, and loves Christmas," Hannah, 62, said. "We were grown and out of the house when Dad started putting up the trees. He started with some trees he bought. They were plastic forms that you threads light on. Dad wanted something in the yard, outside of the house."

There were three bigger trees and two smaller ones -- just to give the display some dimension. They were all solid color lights, but each was a different color.

"We used those for four or five years," Hannah said.

The plastic trees didn't hold up well though.

"Our brother who lives in New Bern knew how to get the crab pot trees," Hannah said. "A crab pot tree is made out of the same thing that fishermen make their crab pots out of, metal mesh. And it's formed to look like a Christmas tree."

So the Wilkinses changed to the crab pot trees with lights on them.

"They're a lot sturdier than what we had," Hannah said. "So we gave the trees to Dad for Christmas about 15 years ago. We upgraded him to the crab pot trees."

And when Kenneth received the crab pot trees from his children, he decided he wanted some smaller ones for his grandchildren. So the following year, Hannah and her brothers ordered the smaller multicolored lighted trees for their dad.

"Then he stared having great-grandchildren," Hannah said. "So we got all white lighted trees for them. The trees for us are 4 and 6 feet tall, the ones for the grandchildren are 3 feet tall and the ones for the great-grandchildren are 1 1/2 feet tall.

"Of course, my brothers and I have to argue which ones have the bigger trees. We just like to tease about which one is which."

And next year, the yard will contain an extra tree for a great-grandchild on the way.

"As the grandchildren are born, they each get a Christmas tree in the yard the next holiday season," Hannah said.

The excitement surrounding the trees comes the afternoon of Thanksgiving, when the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren come home to Kenneth and Betty's home. After a Thanksgiving meal at Hannah's home, they converge on the Wilkinses home to put the trees out in the yard, signaling the arrival of the Christmas season.

"Part of our tradition is to get everything down and decorate their house and yard for them," Hannah said. "Everybody pitches in. There are brothers and their children and some great-grandchildren helping."

It's like a happy chaos at the Wilkins home on Thanksgiving afternoon.

Hannah said most of the family is being silly, but some are  trying to get the trees up.

"Then I'm trying to make sure it's done right because I have to come back over here and redo it if it's not right," she said.

But when it's all finished, what a beautiful sight it is.

"I told them we didn't have to do it this year, and everybody said no, it's part of the tradition," Hannah said.

"I just think it's really special that my parents still want this and that it means something to them. I just makes you proud. And I think the neighborhood enjoys it, too. They all look forward to coming by and seeing the yard."

Son-in-law David Alexander said the first time he ever saw the trees out in the yard, his reaction was, "Wow, these people are serious about Christmas.

"When I found out what the trees mean, it was touching. I thought it was great. I think it's pretty special. It's a great  tradition for us to come here from Denver, Colo., to help put the trees up."

"It's a blessing for us to be able to do this for our parents," Hannah said.