I Am a Christmas Tree

I am a Christmas tree. For seven long winters I stood in the woods, watching wildlife, and hearing the rains and the storms and the winds. I thought I had led a good life. But I was cut down: and now I'm a Christmas tree.

Tonight the family here took more liberties with me than I ever anticipated (but to tell you the truth I like the result). If my former woodland pals could see me now they'd think I was set for a masquerade! First the family set me up in some type of iron tripod contraption that pinched the very sap out of my veins. It would have been easier to bore a hole in the floor for me. But I guess that isn't done. I felt ridiculous at first, standing there like some artificial store-bought tree. But then things began to happen.

Dad came down from the attic with four huge boxes, each marked "Christmas trim." Mom in the meantime had spread a sheet under me--to keep my bare stump warm, maybe. The kids (except for the two little ones, who went to bed at 7:30) tore at the boxes with screams of delight, setting up little piles of similar articles; colored balls in one pile, old moth-eaten treasures like silly animals in another, tinsel icicles in another, strings of lights in still another. As each of the four boxes was opened, the cocker spaniel's wet nose slid inside to get a good smell. For her, and apparently for everybody else, it was wonderful game.  Dad wound me up with the strings of lights, then tested each colored bulb to see why I didn't light up. Finally I did--and the family all let out oohs and ahs, and insisted on turning out all the house lights to see how I looked. I began to feel better.

Then they all tackled me-- with 207 different pieces of adornment--until the four boxes were empty, and I was so full I began to protest at the overload. (They even draped some of their best Christmas cards over me--the effect was wonderful.) After that came the tinsel icicles. Johnny and Nancy started throwing these icicles at me--a game which resulted in a stern cease-and-desist order from Mom.

By this time I thought I just must be ready ( I didn't know what for). but I wasn't. Johnny had started to pop some popcorn while Nancy got out some needles and string. The popcorn went on the strings, which wound up, as everything else did tonight, around me. Then after they put all light out except mine, Mom went to the piano and played carols. She played so softly that the music just seemed to tinkle. Johnny and Nancy started to sing the words, even Dad hummed along with them. It was nice.

After carols, the family hung their stocking on the mantle, let the cocker out the front door for awhile, discussed the chances of Santa's coming, and finally went to bed. I should have felt lonely but didn't. Even with my lights off, I could shake my branches a little whenever I felt like it in order to make the jingle bells, tied on my fingertips, jingle.

Well, just as I was going to sleep, I heard, high above the roof, the sound of hundreds of jingle bells. "Holy smokes!" I said to myself, "it's him!" And it was. In less than a minute a black boot appeared down the chimney, then another black boot, then red pants and coat, white whiskers, jolly old face, long tasseled cap---finally the big leather bag. Yep---Santa had arrived.

"Hi Mr. Claus!" I said. He jumped right into the air. "Hi Mr. Claus," I repeated. He jumped right back into the air again.
"It's me--Jack Pine! Remember me?" I said. " I used to grow just outside your reindeer barn, east of the southern end of the North Pole, across from the west berry patch!"
Santa grinned. "Well as I live and breathe--Jack Pine. I'm glad to see you!"
( I wanted to shake hands with him, but was afraid I'd drop one of the big ornaments, so I just shook my branches and jingled my bells to show him I was delighted.)  "Santa," I said, "What happens now? Here I am decked out like a Christmas Tree. I see you've got a packful of presents there for the family...what do I get out of all this?"

The old fellow sat down and munched on the raisin and chocolate chip cookies the kids had left for him. Then he looked at me and started to talk quietly. "Jack Pine," he said, "you're a lucky tree. Tomorrow happens to be Christmas, and you are going to be the leading character in a drama that will take place 'most everywhere--wherever there are children, that is. You will see faith, when the kids come down in the morning to check up on my having been here. You will see the light of giving surrounding Mom and Dad (that's a certain all-over-good-feeling people get). You will see an "atmosphere" settle down on this house and on the people in it--the atmosphere of Christmas. It's something that makes people glad they have each other...thankful to be members of their families. Now this atmosphere is sometimes criticized because it comes to people, the criticizers say, just once a year. That's not correct. Christmas is the time when families and memories and customs and love and generosity all are mixed together in sort of a big Christmas spirit--which simply gets into people and recharges their systems with freshness and kindness and understanding for another long year.

"You, Jack Pine, have seen some of that Christmas spirit earlier this evening. You'll see more tomorrow. And the reason you're a lucky tree, Jack, is because you--like myself--are actually a part of that warm, friendly feeling. Yes, you and I help make the spirit of Christmas. That is why we are eternal. Our achievements tonight and tomorrow will be remembered by these children forever."  With that Santa went right up the chimney and into his sleigh. The bells on his prancing reindeer started ringing again, then vanished in the softest music ever heard.

I relaxed then, and waited for morning, knowing all the old boy had said was true. I am part of the wonderful spirit of Christmas. I am a Christmas Tree.

 Reader's Digest 1990





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