Sunday, December 17, 2006

Little Tree

Growing up down south, the procuring of the Christmas tree was never done on the parking lot of a grocery store. The notion that one would BUY a "foreign" tree--a fir, a spruce, a Norway pine--that was just crazy talk in my family.

No, we went out to our acreage in the foothills of the Ozarks, tramped around amidst persimmon trees and stickery weeds that stuck to your pants, across dried up creek beds, under steel grey skies, and then we haggled and argued over which of the many homely cedars we would cut. The point was not to get a PRETTY tree, but to get the tree living in the shadow of another one: stunted, second-best, the bridesmaid, never the bride.

Of course, the real story was about good stewardship: these were trees that would languish anyway, and so it made sense to cull them. But we were always given the hopeful adaptation: the narrative of the passed-over tree, always knowing it could be the best Christmas tree ever, if only given a chance.

We were little old country kids, and we knew full well that these were the trees closest to our identity...we knew we were choosing ourselves, we were giving ourselves permission to shine and become glorious, if adorned and loved.

Now I live up north, and I just bought a fir tree off the lot of a grocery store, the first tree I've had in many, many years. I brought it home and decorated it, all by myself. It's a lovely tree. It's fragrant. It's shapely.

And I can't relate to it at all.