My Turn: O Christmas tree …

Published 12:02 am Monday, December 19, 2016

By Bruce La Rue

The decorative centerpiece in most homes this time of year is the Christmas tree. The lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Center is a big event, for not only is it New York’s tree, for many it is America’s tree. The White House Christmas tree is carefully selected and meticulously adorned with jewels and baubles in the form of balls, lights, candy canes, angels and such. The Christmas trees at Biltmore will etch themselves into your DNA so profoundly that future generations, though they never saw them, will remember them nonetheless. Were it not for Linus’ moving soliloquy about the true meaning of Christmas, the tree may have stolen the show in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

As we become older the Christmas tree takes on another role. It becomes an album of Christmas memories. In addition to the aforementioned standard decorations brought out of storage, many in their original time capsule boxes, special ornaments take their rightful spots of honor and high visibility. Some of these dangling mileposts depict a baby’s first Christmas, others are handmade kindergarten projects, and some simply mark significant dates or themes that hold special meanings to those who seek out just the right spot on the tree for each precious memory.

Each of our special ornaments has its own story, but how often does a tree have a story? Most of us pick a tree that meets the minimum standard, i.e., not hideous. As long as it is somewhat symmetrical and appears up to the task of bearing the burden of 300 pounds of lights and other hangers-on, it’s good. Then, after Christmas, it’s off to the brush pile, end of story.

This year is a little different. This year the tree is part of the story.

Traditionally, the white pine has been the tree of choice for my wife and me. In recent years, we have bought our trees from a nearby tree farm, nice folks who have warned us that they would be shutting down for good when the last of the live trees was felled. This was the year.

Resigned to an “ordinary” Christmas tree, we went shopping for just the reasonably acceptable one. After several stops we ended up at a mom and pop tree lot with a good selection and reasonable prices. They even had one white pine, one of the most exquisite I had ever seen, but I would have had to cut four feet from it just to get it in the house.

As I made my way through the forest of Fraser firs from Ashe County, I came upon a tree, still in its netting, that the pop had just placed in a holder. It looked more like a giant cocoon than a traditional Christmas centerpiece. As I watched the mom cut away the netting, my wife walked up and I immediately got that “Oh, no, what now?” vibe that I get a lot.

“This one speaks to me,” I said, transfixed on the tree whose needles had barely moved upon its release from the mesh.

“Oh, yeah?” she replied, “What’s it saying?”

“It says, ‘I know I don’t look like much now, and there’s no way for you to know what I will look like, but if you believe in me and choose me I will be one of the most beautiful trees you ever had.’ ”

“Well, good,” she said, “let’s make one more round and see if it still speaks to you.”

I dutifully accompanied her on one more perfunctory trip through the forest of ordinary trees. When we had made our way back to my soul tree she asked, “It’s still speaking to you, isn’t it?”


And so, it came to pass that, after about five minutes of freedom the tree found itself enmeshed yet again for the trip home. After setting it free I placed it in the stand, stood it up, and made … no adjustments. That never happens. We always have to tweak it to make it perpendicular, then rotate it several times to get the best side outward. Not this time.

By the next morning the branches had relaxed and the tree was astonishing, far better than any of the others on the lot. Even covered with lights and ornaments, the tree stands out, at least to me. There are a lot of stories dangling from our Fraser fir, but this year the tree has a story of its own.

While I do not have a reputation as a tree hugger, this year could be different. Come January, it will be tough lighting up the brush pile. The smoke will no doubt make my eyes water.

Merry Christmas to all.

Bruce La Rue lives in Mt. Ulla.

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