The Unremarkable Little Tree

The Latest — By on December 2, 2014 at 1:03 pm

In a rolling green valley behind the hills just outside of town, the first cold night of the holiday season awakens rows of beautiful dark green trees from their summertime slumber. Trees of all kind, from cedar and spruce to pine and fir grow in this very special place. Through their stately boughs the long hot summer stillness is ushered away by the cool midnight breeze.

Beneath millions of diamond like stars adrift in a sea of inky black sky, the trees begin their wait just like all the trees that had grown there before them, they awaited the day that a family would choose them, thereby becoming Christmas trees and fulfilling their destinies. Only when a family chooses them to be the symbol of their celebration do they truly come alive, glowing from the inside with the Christmas spirit.

This special place is no ordinary grove or forest; the trees grown here do so with special care by a farmer and his wife by the last name of Frost. The Frosts grew the most beautiful and some say magical Christmas trees in the world on their farm, and this year would be no different.

A brilliant white winter sun shone down that morning and just as they do every year after the first cold night of the season, farmer Frost and his wife walked among the rows of trees. They placed red and green-striped tape on the largest, fullest and most perfect of the year’s harvest. The trees all wanted that tape, though not all received it.

Along one of the rows, between a large Spruce and a towering Fir tree stood a small and squat little cedar. The trees heard the farmer and his wife drawing near and straightened their trunks, unfurled their branches and did their best to showcase their perfumed evergreen splendor.

The squat little cedar tree did the same.

“You don’t think that you will actually get that tape do you?” Jeered the Spruce.

“Of course I will,” replied the giant Fir tree, in a regal and booming voice. “Look at my branches, so full of lustrous green.”

“Not you,” Said the Spruce, “That little cedar there between us.”

The fir tree sighed as he peered down his branches to the little cedar tree below.

The little tree was truthfully very unremarkable. No more than a few feet tall with coarse stubby branches where it had them, and large bare spots and embarrassing asymmetry where it didn’t. No, this tree was definitely not the kind that received the first pick and the red and green tape.

“Unremarkable in every way,” Said the Fir tree. “It would be best not to waste your time addressing that particular tree and worry about your own appearance. The farmer will be here at any minute and you only have one chance for that red and green tape.

Both trees went back to looking their best for the inspection. The little cedar tree slumped a bit as it looked down at his stubby and misshapen branches. The little tree didn’t feel unremarkable, in fact it never occurred to the little cedar tree that it was smaller than the others until remarked upon by the fir, but it was true. The little tree was lost in the soaring branches of those growing around him; more remarkable trees, proper trees, real Christmas trees.

Farmer Frost called out to his wife to come look at the fir tree as he tied one of the pieces of striped tape around one of its branches.

“Best looking tree we’ve had in ages.” Beamed Farmer Frost as he stood back to admire the magnificent tree before him.

“Oh my, look at the little one!” exclaimed Mrs. Frost and pointed to the tiny cedar next to the impressive fir tree.

“I thought we had weeded out all the runts.” Said Farmer Frost looking at the little tree with disdain. “No, this will never do.” He took out a strip of bright orange tape and tied it to the little cedar’s branch; orange tape was a very bad thing for the trees. Any tree with the orange tape was unfit for Christmas. “Now this spruce right next to it is also a brilliant specimen,” He tied another red and green striped tape around it. “How long has it been since we’ve had two such exquisite trees so close together?” Asked Farmer Frost to his wife, but she didn’t answer, she just stared sadly at the little cedar tree.

“Do we really have to give this little tree the orange tape?” She asked.

Farmer Frost turned to remind her that they sold only the finest trees and this stubby little tree was simply not up to snuff, but stopped and smiled warmly at his wife when he saw her face. “I’ve seen that look before,” He said as he untied the orange tape and gave the tree a small shake. “We’ll let the spirit of Christmas send you where you need to be,” said the farmer, “she has a knack for knowing these things.”

Mrs. Frost knelt beside the little tree and fluffed its branches with delicate hands.

“You are a very special little tree, and I know down deep in my heart that you will make one lucky family truly happy this year.” She whispered to the little cedar tree. “The Christmas spirit will see that you find them.” She tied a neat bow of red and green striped tape on one of the little tree’s branches.

The farmer and his wife continued down the row of trees selecting those to be cut and sent to market in the big red and green tent in town. Once they were out of sight, the spruce chimed to life.

“She has gone crazy!” Exclaimed the Spruce.

“Preposterous!” echoed the Fir tree down from his regal height. “To even suggest a pathetic little tree such as this being on the same level as trees of our stature is insulting.”

The little cedar didn’t even hear them, the striped bow on his branch meant he was special, the tree knew he would become a Christmas tree. Tomorrow it was off to market, and into a family’s home.

The next morning trucks rumbled through the rows of trees gathering them for market under the big red and green striped tent in town. With them the Spruce, the Fir and the little Cedar were gathered up and soon motoring along the highway toward town.

It wouldn’t be long now, thought the little tree.

And so it was, the little tree was displayed along side the others as the special day of the season rapidly approached. Day after day and then week after week the days ticked by. Families of all shapes and sizes snapped up every other tree. Some paid the little tree attention just to point out how small and pitiful it was compared to all the other grand trees surrounding it.

The little cedar tree could do little more than pretend he couldn’t hear them, he held on to the fact that Mrs. Frost had chosen him and told him that he is special.

After a few more weeks under the big red and green striped tent, the little tree noticed a pattern. What at first were people and families that looked like good homes to go to, became a scary and crazy jumble of stressed out parents and spoiled, cranky children in a hurrying through a ritual that should be performed with a great deal of joy and love. What the little tree began to see was a blur of negative feelings and the absence of what he had believed all along, the Christmas Spirit.

One day, a menacing and impossibly long black car, pulled up to the tent. Out of its huge four doors slinked a most peculiar family. A father angrily arguing with some poor soul whose job it was to listen to men like him. A horribly bored looking mother and a loudly arguing and rude brother and sister hotly contesting whose turn it was to play a game on their mother’s tablet.

The man broke from his phone call long enough to inform his wife that they didn’t have all day and that it really didn’t matter what tree they selected as long as it was green and tree shaped. He said it would be just a pile of dead needles in a few days anyway, so why make a big deal? He then went back to belittling the person on the other end of the phone again.

On cue his unhappy and unfriendly looking wife turned and barked at her children.

“Now hurry and choose which you want.” She said in shrill and unpleasant voice. “We need to get home, I don’t know why we even need a tree honestly. A nice plastic tree would be a better and much more clean affair. I know I wouldn’t miss this part of the holiday.”

The two spoiled children looked out over the trees and pointed to a Spruce right next to the little cedar.

“There,” Said one of the children loudly. “That one, are you happy? Can we go now?”

The two children bolted back to the long black car in a flash, their mother strolling lazily behind. The man, still yelling into the phone, handed the Farmer some money, motioning him to hurry. Farmer Frost gave him his change and the man turned quickly back to his call.

“Merry Christmas and thank you.” Said the farmer after the family, but no one turned to reply.

The little tree didn’t quite pay attention to the rest of the evening and more families like those from the long black car came and bought up all the trees, it was just too sad, the little tree couldn’t believe that THIS was Christmas.

All at once the lights shut off in the big striped tent and all was dark, but not before the little tree saw that he was the only one left. He was unwanted, and a Christmas tree without a family was truly an unremarkable thing indeed.

There is no such thing as the Christmas Spirit, thought the little tree; it is all just a lie that the Farmer and his wife made up to sell trees.

This made the little tree sad and he began to cry. Mrs. Frost said that he was special and that he would make a family, a nice family, very happy. She made him feel he was special although he was smaller and didn’t quite look like the other trees. He was different and didn’t belong anywhere and now he knew it was true.

“Look at that, we didn’t sell out this year.” Said Farmer Frost, and as he looked closer at the sad little tree he recognized it from earlier in the year. “Isn’t this the little tree you had a feeling about earlier in the season?”

“Yes I do believe it is.” She came closer to the little tree and knelt beside it like she had before. She felt bad for the little tree.

“Well we can always use another tree back home, I’m sure we can find a place for it.” said the Farmer.

The little tree sighed and drooped even further; it was a nice idea but not the same as a warm house on Christmas morning. To sit atop a pile of lovingly wrapped gifts and covered in shimmering tinsel and blinking lights, with a star on its top branch. The tree longed for the pure, joyful sound of children’s laughter in a frenzy of anticipation as they walked into a room transformed by Christmas and family and love. More important than the presents and the cookies, greater still than the feasts and warm chocolaty drinks, it was this true Spirit of Christmas the tree so terribly wished to share and to know.

Mrs. Frost carried the little tree back to the big, red truck and placed it gently in the bed. The tree knew his chance had passed. This late at night on Christmas Eve, there was simply no hope left to live his Christmas dream.

Just then, when all hope was lost, a wonderfully different little mini-van came tearing into the driveway. As she readied herself for the long drive home, Mrs. Frost watched a pleasant looking man walk toward her husband. She had a feeling about this customer and began walking toward the two men. As she came closer she could hear what he was saying.

“We just got the keys to our new house today, and of course you can’t have a new house on Christmas without a real tree, but we haven’t been able to find the right one, nothing we’ve seen is what we are looking for. We have a particular tree in mind.”

Mrs. Frost quickened her step as she heard her husband reply.

“Sorry friend, all sold out, should have been here maybe an hour earlier.”

Mrs. Frost said hello and placed her small hand on her husband’s shoulder.

“We aren’t completely sold out remember?” She said and nodded toward the red truck. Farmer Frost stopped cold as he realized what may be happening.

“You don’t suppose?” He rubbed his white whiskers deep in thought.

“Don’t suppose what?” asked the man.

“Wait here,” answered Mrs. Frost. “I think we may have exactly what you have been searching for.”

Sensing there may be a tree to be had, the rest of the pleasant man’s family came to join him under the empty red and green striped tent.

The little tree, still so sad and believing that the Christmas Spirit was no more, felt himself picked up, dusted off and presented to family. He didn’t even look at them. Surely anyone looking for a tree this late wouldn’t care how he looked, but then the most peculiar and magnificent thing happened.

The little tree heard joy.

Having never heard it before the little tree could only guess, but deep down he felt that this was the sound of joy.

“Dada, it’s perfect!” exclaimed the little girl.

“Exactly what we have been searching for, remarkably similar in every way to the pictures we have, dad.” Her brother added pointing to the images on his tablet.

“Looks like we’ve found the one,” said the man. “You wouldn’t believe it, but with the new house and new beginning, we were looking for a tree just like my wife and I had on our first Christmas together. It was a tiny and scruffy looking little tree exactly like this one. We have been all over but couldn’t find what we were looking for, and this tree is absolutely perfect. What do I owe you?”

“A Merry Christmas,” Said Farmer Frost as put an arm around his wife, holding her tight. “Take this tree home and let it bring you and your family joy and have a Merry Christmas. That is what you owe me.”

The pleasant man and his family carefully secured the unremarkable little tree to the roof of their van and sped off towards home, and to Christmas. The cold night air rushed through his branches and something inside him changed, like a switch was flipped, and a glow began to come from deep inside him. It was small at first, but with every mile it grew and grew. The next morning the pleasant family would all remark at just how bright the little tree looked, even with the lights off.

But this was the little tree’s time. All alone, and under the sea of diamond like stars adrift in an inky black sky, the little tree felt the spirit of Christmas flowing through him. He knew at last he was a Christmas tree, he knew that he was special.

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