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California Family Has Kept Their Christmas Tree Alive For Over 34 Years

Some 35 years ago, Joe and Gina Mistretta purchased a potted scotch pine that was 3 feet tall. It was their Christmas tree for the year and it was so tiny, it only held one string of lights. Rather than putting the tree out to the curb when Christmas was over, they planted it in the yard according to CBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal.

“It looks different every year. Some years are good, some years are not. You happened to catch it on a really good year,” Gina said.

“It’s got its own shape, it’s got its own character, but it’s still growing,” Joe said.

A few years after they first purchased the tree, they had two boys who love Christmas and the tiny tree from the yard. Those boys are now 28 and 32, and it is the only Christmas tree the family has known their entire lives.

“If someone is more traditional, for a triangular tree, that’s great. But it’s really what the tree represents,” Joe Jr. said.

“It’s like people — it’s got good years and bad years, and even when we thought it wasn’t going to make it, they were like, ‘Well, you can’t get rid of this tree, Dad. This is our tree,'” Joe said.

Their Christmas tree may look more like a bush, but they continue to give it all of the love it needs to grow.

“I enjoy trimming it, I go out there, I spend a little time with it,” Joe said. “Yeah, I’m a tree talker now.”

Over the years, the tree has successfully made it through a fire and has been re-potted 4 times. Even the front door was enlarged so the 300-pound tree can be brought in for Christmas.

“There is no perfect life, there is no perfect tree and we like it that way. And the ornaments that we put on it are not perfectly put in the perfect spot, but they mean something to us,” Gina said.

Photo: CBS News

The tree is more than a Christmas tradition, it’s a time capsule that marks many important events in their life. When Gina’s parents were still alive, the tree was there with all of them as they shared the holidays together. At the age of 13, Michael was diagnosed with leukemia and went into remission five years later. Through it all, the tree was there.

“It’s really a family member. You bring it in and you go OK, it’s time for you now, come on. I’ve taken care of you the whole year, now it’s your turn. Show time!” Joe said.

“It definitely represents tradition… It brings back memories,” Joe Jr. added.

As long as the family continues to make new memories, the tree will be there to share it with them. Scotch pines can live for well over 100 years, so they still have a long way to go.

“There’s so many people who have touched this, our lives and have been part of that tree,” Joe said. “We’re getting older and the tree’s getting older with us and you know it’s growing with us.”

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