She told this story not knowing what to really make of it. You see, when she was a little girl, there was this Christmas tradition that was the absolute anchor of her life.
Every year the family would decide to get a tree. Dad drove the girls to the woods where he would declare, "I thought I saw a good one this way the other day." She and her sisters wrapped in snowsuits, bundled in the hand nit scarfs from Aunt Alma the year before and mittens with strings up the sleeve across the back and down the other arm, would trek in the powder up to their knees. What seemed like a polar expedition of hours wrapped through the woods until suddenly, magically, glowing in the light from the Christmas star above, they found it. The perfect tree.
Dad would carefully take his time removing the tree from its natural home, wrap it in a plastic bag, and take the heavy end while the girls took the light. As a team, they would return to the car in record time, strap it on top, and make the trip home.
Waiting for them was a home of hearth and heart, fireplace ablaze, hot coco ready on the stove with big marshmallows, and boxes of ornaments ready to hang, alternating each year with a silver star or golden angel on top. As a family, they would spend the evening decorating the home.
This was Christmas. This was the tradition. This, the touchstone of life during hectic days in the real world.
Only a few days ago, dad had changed this forever with the words under his breath, "shit, I didn't get the tree yet."
In an instant, she knew. It was all a lie. The years played back in her mind revealing the truth. The magical woods were not the place one would get a Christmas tree. A perfect tree of that size would not get the light needed on the forest floor under the canopy of taller trees. How could this breed of the tree grow alone amongst the others of an entirely different type? Her father never cut the tree down, simply, and carefully removed the tree from the ground in a technique taught to him by his great-great-grandfather Mox the lumberjack from northern Michigan. Rather than being grateful that she had lasted a full 32 years holding on to this alternate reality, she was sad to know the truth. Her father bought a tree on a lot the night before and set it out in the woods for her family to discover.
Across the table from me at the coffee house, eyes a little watery with emotion, I watched as adulthood took root. Christmas magic is created with love by parents. Moments that last are lovingly built and crafted. The warmth we carry with us for a lifetime during this holiday season is the greatest gift we have been given. Some family traditions, like thinking the Lions will win on Thanksgiving Day, or the type of stuffing served this one time of year, seem trivial when we think about it. But not Christmas traditions. Through the lens of one's heart, they are the greatest treasures of a life and shared with others. This was Christmas as an adult, knowing there is a greater debt we owe to each other and have the opportunity to make good.
If you’ve enjoyed this story, you may also enjoy “The Symmetry of Snowflakes” available HERE