Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree
“But we have a tree, what are you going to do with our tree, you can’t just leave it outside, it's our tree!” The tree in question was a very scrappy looking potted pine, brought in from the backyard each year for Christmas. We’d had the tree so long we couldn’t remember when or where it had first appeared. In the beginning, it was a tabletop decoration, the picture perfect tree in miniature with full, needle filled branches and a lovely triangle shape. After it’s moment of glory it was put outside and mostly forgotten about. We rewarded its survival by bringing it back inside the next Christmas. At some point, we draped a skirt around it, hung a few lights and formally adopted it as our tree.
As the years went on, kids were born and life got busier. Each year the tree continued to survive in the backyard for 49 neglected weeks, only to be moved back to its’ place of honor at week 50. The branches became less full, gaps appeared and it became more Charlie Brown and less Norman Rockwell. Holiday guests struggled to find the appropriate adjective to describe our tree.
“Wow, that sure is a, hmm, a very natural looking tree.” Somewhat embarrassed, we always felt the need to explain why we had this particular tree. In the holiday swirl of perfect gifts and perfect decorations, our lopsided, threadbare tree seemed out of place.
A few years ago we decided to get a “real” tree, one that had a lovely shape, fresh pine scent and would not require an explanation to the holiday guests. Our announcement to the kids of the new tree plan was greeted with disbelief and protests. Relenting, Charlie Brown came inside once again, looking less coniferous and more deciduous than the year before.
I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised that the boys would come to the tree’s defense, after all it was the only tree they’d ever known. Bringing it in every year was as much a part of our holiday tradition as leaving out milk and cookies for Santa. I have to admit, I had come to feel the tree was part of the family, like a slightly disheveled, lovable relative that keeps turning up every year.
I can look back at pictures of both the kids and the tree and marvel at how they’ve grown over the years. At some point, the tree outgrew the top of the table and little boys no longer needed a step ladder to hang the ornaments. The scrappy tree with its paper preschool star was a living member of the family. In the frantic pace of the holidays, the tree felt like a solid, stable anchor. In a disposable, throw away world, our tree was the ultimate in holiday regifting.
Last year we started over with a new living tree. Smaller, younger and in better shape, it sits on a table top like it’s counterpart did all those years ago. The boys agreed to welcome the new tree so long as the Charlie Brown version stayed in the family. We re-potted the old one, hooked it up to the drip system and gave it a place of honor in the yard. From the kitchen window I can gaze on the original tree and remember the joy of Christmases past, while in the living room I can view the promise of Christmases to come.
Both trees help remind me that the important things are friends and family and those who’ve been there over the years. No doubt there’ll be a day when I’ll be scraggly looking with branches bent and when that day arrives I can only hope I’ll still be loved and taken in for the holidays.
Regina Stoops is a comedian, writer, MS Warrior and Autism Mom living with her wife and three kids in the San Francisco Bay Area. Click here to subscribe to her Normal Notes blog.