I know people that would rather eat raw eggs than participate in the commercialism and trappings of Christmas. The complaints range anywhere from it’s a consumer holiday, Coca- Cola invented Santa Claus to what does a Christmas tree have to do with Jesus. When I took down my Christmas tree today, on January 10th 16 days after Christmas, a little part of me died. It’s a fake tree that had wound up in the yard of a dear friend. Her shared yard neighbor has a constant heap of yard sale wares bubbling into the driveway; shoes and half worn stuffed animals percolate into the walkway. The neighbor, because of the eyesore and for the required need of agile movements and an obstacle course like mind set in order to get to my friend’s front door, kindly told both of us to, “take whatever you want, no charge.” So I often scan the heaps quickly and thoroughly, on the way to visit my friend, panning through river rocks for gold and luckily one spring morning there it shown as shiny and warm as a golden nugget glowing through running water, a brand new boxed fake Christmas tree. Of course I could only see a photo of the gorgeously full and life like tree on the label of the cardboard box, as I didn’t dare disturb the perfectly packaged parcel; I am all too familiar with the distress of trying to shove newly opened tents and sleeping bags back into their impossibly minute original packaging. The label on the pristine box read – 6 ft Minnesota Pine with the original price tag of $19.99. I grabbed the box by the handle and nearly skipped to my friend’s house exclaiming, “We have a tree, we have a tree!” She wasn’t quite as beaming as I was about the whole ordeal but she seemed to take pleasure in the image of me dancing around with a fake Christmas tree and was even more pleased when it was decided she wouldn’t have to take on the display and decoration of it in her house. I was more than happy to take that on.
Neither one of us had room to store the new found treasure, so the box was forced to weather the rough California sun on my friend’s porch, where it’s label slowly began to fade waiting for the exalted day its contents would finally be pulled out and appreciated for all of its fluffy green fullness . Over the ensuing months I would casually check to make sure the box was still on her porch. One day I nearly panicked when I missed the box behind a chair, but my friend reassured me she wouldn’t get rid of the tree.
Thanksgiving finally came and even though my mostly on again vegetarian self loves the festive gathering centered around a juicy turkey and fall harvest vegetables, I couldn’t wait for the turkey to cross the road so I could put up my 6’ Minnesota Pine. I waited for 2 days after Thanksgiving, more out of respect for the Native Americans than the Pilgrims considering all of the upheaval the white man’s arrival caused, and then it was on. On Saturday I texted a handful of friends to come over for a tree trimming; which I later discovered a few people thought that meant I would be trimming back the leaves on my plants and I will blame the medium attendance on that minor loss of translation. Before people arrived, my dear friend, who kept the tree on her porch all those months, and I began to assemble the tree; earlier that day we had gotten some spiked hot apple cider, and goodies for the guests and some lights and ribbon for the tree, so we were well prepared to begin the process. I pulled the tree out of the box and began to connect the three umbrella like parts of the tree. The first thing we noticed is that it was clearly not 6’ it barely reached 4’10”. This was not a big deal because I was putting it atop a low coffee table and the tree was only $19.99 and free for me so what are you going to do. The next thing that we noticed was that the tree was not full and fluffy it was actually full of holes and fine haired as opposed to thick. So we than began the equivalent of a balding man’s comb over on the tree by pulling and carefully placing branches, even if the directions didn’t quite make sense, until it was as full as it could possibly be. Standing there, bare the tree looked like the busty cousin of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree; a bit fuller but still related. Despite the sharp contrast of the seemingly real Minnesota Pine on the faded label to the in the flesh under interpretation of a Minnesota Pine, I was still very excited about all of the decorating possibilities. I then noticed my friend, who housed that tree for all of those months, began to get excited too. Pretty soon we were skipping to the tree, finding the perfect spot for each ornament, prioritizing its placement, gleefully naming our favorites and what we liked about them, and giggling at our unexpected enthusiasm. My neighbor joined us in these early stages and in a pinch was able to fix the broken lights that I had used on my foot tall tree from the year before. The enthusiasm for the tree appeared to be infectious . It went like that throughout the night people stopping by, adding an ornament to the plucky petite tree, eating, drinking, and being merry as they say. Friends basked in the sparkle of the tree now filled with ribbon, lights, and ornaments that had been gifted to me every Christmas mostly from one of my best friends in college, and ornaments that I had bought at post Christmas sales. Now they all had a home and a purpose.
The tree provided a whimsical warm magic for the time I had it up. That little boxed 4’10” free, fake Minnesota Pine inspired conversation and exuded the subtle comfort of tradition. It brought life and I suppose that is why I felt a little part of me had died today when I took it down. Now my living room is back to normal and I can see the hillside more clearly out the window that the tree had temporarily blocked. At night the hillside twinkles with the lights from the inside of each home and in the day you can see those homes and the trees that cover the hillside between them. It’s peaceful and I will get over missing the tree, but the next time someone brings up the pointlessness of Christmas traditions I will just smile and quietly enjoy the thought of that sweet junkyard Minnesota Pine.