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The Chance of a Lifetime: With Buoyant Hope

December 29, 2015

Note: I intended to take a blog vacation over Christmas but some posts just write themselves. In fact, this post is being written by our Christmas tree, the one about which I asked two weeks ago, “Will this make it as a Christmas tree?”

UncutTree

Guest Post by Christmas Tree 2015

For the last several weeks, my owner gazed upon me with an appraising eye. I wondered what was up with that.

But let me start at the beginning. We were three white pines to begin with, just seedlings wrapped in little bags, given out for Arbor Day or some other tree promotion. I thought the people who brought me home were going to forget about us completely; we languished—no water, no soil, no nourishment, for days. Maybe even weeks. I thought I would die. The mother tree from which we came had said that might happen. That people often pick up a seedling with oh such great intentions and then the busyness of life impedes and oh, some of us just die without ever getting the chance to grow.

Finally one day—these people have a youngest daughter who especially LOVES trees and the earth—who nudged them along. They set about readying a small hole. That’s the thing about us as seedlings. We don’t need much of a hole, just prepared a bit with some peat or some good garden dirt, I’m not sure what all they put in my hole. Three of us they planted in a row near the edge of their yard at their home built in 2007. We joined a redbud seedling as well, given to our owners from some more tree lovers from their church. My owners aren’t much inclined to spend money on nursery trees, preferring instead to adopt seedlings others give them.

“These will grow quickly and you can replace them with hardier woods like the oaks or bright orange sugar maples you want some day,” the youngest daughter promised.

We did grow quickly for about seven years. They added an oak—yes, another seedling picked up somewhere and several years later another daughter and her husband got them the promised maples as a Christmas gift. Real trees already, some 7 feet tall. I knew those trees might one day rob us of our chance to grow tall and old and willowy, but glad to see other trees joining us to offer shade and make their lonely ranchy style house into a home.

Then last year it happened. The oak tree was growing much taller and was quite robust; clearly our sister pine was competing for and shaping—nay thwarting the development of the oak. They cut the first of us down without much fanfare. I did detect a little sentiment from the mother, who told Tree One she’d done a good job and now she could become nourishment for other trees and growing things in their little woods at the edge of their property. So that’s what would happen to me, I prepared myself. But they passed me by, with the mother taking a little clippers now and then to shape me up. With the attention, I grew ever taller and prouder. I was a pretty good looking tree, given my humble beginnings.

So this year as the days shortened and a few chilly spells brought us to winter, they received the reminder card they always get from their favorite tree buying place. Oops, the trees had gone up again by another couple dollars, enough to give my good frugal family pause. “Humph,” growled the pappa, “Pretty soon they’ll be so high we can’t afford to buy a Christmas tree.”

“I’ve been thinking,” replied the mamma. “With the little trimming I’ve been doing on our own pines, that one near the maple would make us a fine tree. Well, maybe not fine, but I’d rather use it then just cut it to get it out of the way of the maple, and waste it in the woods.”

Pappa was plainly a little surprised. It was Momma who had always pushed to buy prettier trees (after the cedars they always got free from an uncle or a neighbor grew too tall or unwieldy or misshapen to possibly use).

But first a farm back story.

Momma thought back to how her family used to cut their tree each year from the Christmas trees her daddy and mommy grew on their farm in Indiana. Ever the entrepreneur, her daddy planted maybe 20-30 seedlings (in a steep part of a field) that he too had probably gotten free, from the Farm Bureau or someplace. Her Daddy said they’d have trees to use each year and sell a few too: she thinks she remembers signage for $5 or possibly $8 trees, beautiful blue-green spruce.

But like most part-time tree farmers, her daddy soon discovered that trimming them and shaping them into saleable trees took a great deal of attention away from many other tasks that never let up. They sold a few—along with fresh eggs from their chicken house—and gradually the pickings from the trees that remained each year became woefully slim. Momma remembers bundling up all warm, getting out the sled with which to carry home the tree, and heading out with buoyant hope for a suitable tree. Invariably they’d settle for the least objectionable one, her mother opining that they could turn the tree’s big empty spot to the wall where no one would see it. Then they’d trudge happily up the hill, pulling or carrying the chosen one back to the house.

Oh how excited they always were to get their tree, and oh what a struggle to finally set it up in the living room, sometimes anchoring it with bailer twine to the drapery rods lest it fall over and smash those precious ornaments they pulled from always the same boxes in her mommy’s closet.

So that’s a little of why Momma suggested they use one of their two remaining white pines for Christmas this year. They wouldn’t be having a houseful of company for the holidays. Since one daughter was pregnant and due quite soon, that family wouldn’t make it home. Christmas would be held at that daughter’s house—a first! Less work for Momma to do at home, but still they’d need a Christmas tree. Afterall, one grandson (and his parents) would visit and spend the night enroute to his auntie’s home.

TreeWeb

As my owners (and their dog) circled round me, checking out my full and empty spots, my forked top, my too long branches and my bushy bottom, I pulled up straighter, prouder. Would I be picked for the Davis tree of 2015, imperfect and simple that I am? Or would they head over the hills to the nearby tree farm to pick out a better tree, one truly groomed for the annual festivity?

At last I heard Momma say, let’s get the tree saw. Pappa rolled on the ground—the way he has to do whenever something has to be approached at ground level, he’s not much good at stooping anymore—until he could reach my trunk. The saw stung a little, but I was so elated to be deemed good enough to go inside the house and deck their halls for three shining weeks. I would be the best and most beautiful tree I could be, they’d see!

XmasTree2015

And I was. Just perfect. Momma said so and Pappa agreed. Easy to decorate and not so tall. Why, with the spare spots between my branches, their precious and beloved ornaments sparkled and stood out even more than when nestled up into tight, close, boughs.

treeBoughs

Even the little boy who came and admired me in wonder and joy thought I was perfect; he hardly knows better though, this being the first Christmas he was old enough to figure out how to pull paper off of presents and grab for toys and let nice new pajamas settle forgotten beside him.

I’m happy as a tree can be, chosen to welcome the Christ child over at Bethlehem’s stable on the piano in their yearly ritual. God come to earth!

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And when this Christmas season passes, as it must, I will be happy to join my sister tree out in the woods and slowly nourish the forest floor, a poignant reminder that they too—all of them—also return earth to earth, dust to dust.

Does my spirit—like theirs—live on through the gift of the Christ child sent to earth? I’ll let others decide that. I do know that we need each other—tree and human. We trees clean their air, beautify the earth, keep soil in place, provide shade, homes for wildlife, and so much more. God planned for us both, and I’m happy for my place in the choir.

So be it. I got the chance of a lifetime. We all do.

—Tree Two 

***

What are your memories of bringing home a special Christmas tree? Did you ever talk to your tree?

How did you/do you feel as you say goodbye to it at the end of the season? When do you traditionally take your tree down? Do you wait until Epiphany, January 6?

Would love to hear your stories and thoughts! 

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From → Faith, Family Life, Nature

8 Comments
  1. You pick your guest posters well, this one firmly planted in your family’s story. I understand the urge to tell this tale even though you planned a holiday hiatus from blogging. When a story writes itself, you just gotta go with the flow – ha!

    I agree, your tree was perfect. I see the cupped shape at the top, ready to receive Christmas blessings.

    When do we traditionally take down our tree? Well, here’s how it goes in the Beaman family. Cliff and I play a friendly tug of wills over when the tree comes down. I vote for early; he chooses late. Generally, it comes down shortly after New Year’s Day. This year I might let him win. His birthday is the 9th – Christmas lights could join the candles on the birthday cake.

  2. Thanks, Marian! Family traditions regarding when to put up a tree, when to take it down, are fascinating, even if at first a tug of wills. My husband doesn’t like putting up a tree until a week before–which is often too late for some holiday get togethers I’d like to plan earlier in December. Our church organizes Epiphany dinners hosted in homes, so years when we host, we keep the tree up until after Epiphany (so that works well with a later hoisting of the tree). This year, I think this one’s coming down soon after New Year’s!

    And yes, the more lights the merrier for January birthdays.

  3. lindamaendel permalink

    Love this story! It would make a great picture book.

  4. Awww, thanks Linda! High praise coming from a teacher of children like yourself. I thought of a picture book. Hmm. It would need to be honed back for a small child. 🙂 Hope you are enjoying days of rest and inspiration on the prairies! Someday I hope to get my husband to Manitoba. Nothing like that long slow summer sunset across the flattest of God’s terrain.

  5. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler permalink

    I’m enjoying your story….thankfully your daughter nudges you along, and you can hear the voice of the tree.

  6. I like the way you connect here, Dolores, not surprised! Blessings.

  7. Margaret Kauffman permalink

    What a special story!

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