Why I Fought the Tree and Am Grateful to Have Lost (…almost)

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It has been my belief since I was a child that a tree is best left growing in a forest.  I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. Trees were my comfort and my friends–they were giants and magic–a place where I just knew fairies and folklore lived.  As an adult, I understand their necessity in a world built of wood-frame houses and one that has not gone paperless (yet), but for today that argument is not really my point (sort of).   

As you can imagine, it is difficult for this adult to put a Christmas tree up in her home.  I tried the fake tree and then swiftly removed it (and felt guilty for the waste of resources), but I have young children and most fake Christmas trees contain large amounts of lead.     For a couple years, we decorated a large living plant and I was delighted.  However, this doesn’t suit the rest of the family anymore.  My daughter was in tears this year over the thought of not having a Christmas tree and since we don’t have a rent-a-tree program in the Midwest we had a decision to make.  I tried to convince my family that we should purchase a large potted Norfolk Pine–they were less than impressed.  “We might as well decorate the plant again,” were their unhappy replies.  Finally, I relented and we took home a very small fir–not very old were my thoughts and not a big giver of oxygen.  My family was pleased; I felt like a murderer.  …And don’t get me started on the carbon footprint left from transporting this tree (our local tree farm had a fire a couple years back and so we have only big box stores to buy trees from…the shame was unbearable).  Does a child ponder this ecological devastation–NO–the tears from earlier were forgotten.  My tears were silent.

I am not the only parent who has had this problem.  There is a famous story about Teddy Roosevelt’s children sneaking a small tree into the White House when the patriarch of the family refused to have a White House Christmas tree.  Trees were meant to be preserved and grow in the forest.  Sound familiar?  Teddy let the children keep the tree–we are all weak when it comes to our kids.

Yesterday, when the day felt heavy and tired–I tiptoed upstairs to a darkened room that is the temporary home to our tree and I plugged it in.  With the stroke of lights the heaviness left and only beauty remained.  A sacred mixture of the natural and the remembered stood before me–every ornamentation holds a story and my children had dressed this tree so gingerly and lovingly.  This is not a mere tree but a Christmas tree–it is our Christmas tree for this another special year.  “Silent Night” began playing on the radio downstairs and then I remembered the sacredness and the grace of all the Christmases past and I whispered, “Thank you Christmas tree.”

May serenity and peace find you this season–Merry Christmas.

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