What’s in a Tree?

18 Dec

When I was a little girl, I adored the Christmas tree. It was my favorite thing about Christmas. In high school, I often opted for sleeping on the living room couch so I could fall asleep in the glow of the tree’s lights. My dad was kind of a kook for the tree too. We often had a live Monterey pine as our tree so one year we kept it up until the end of February before eventually planting it.

As I became an adult and my family proceeded to unravel, I kept the tradition of having a tree, even as I let go of gift giving and much of the fanfare that comes with the season. I remember lugging a tree home from one of the corner stores when I lived in Manhattan and purchasing a stand with screws to secure the trunk’s base. But in the last few years, I’ve grown negligent in my tree traditions. In fact, there have been a few years where I’ve skipped getting a tree all together.

In the same way that I used to enjoy cooking for one because I found it an act of relaxation and self-nurturing, I used to not mind getting a tree for myself. Why would I deprive my heart the pleasure of a tree and lights, simply because I live alone? But now I find cooking kind of tedious and something I do to keep fuel in my body and quite frankly, I have found the tree thing an ordeal as well.

One year, my neighbor lent me his artificial tree. Initially resistant because I had always been a “real” tree girl, I actually loved the tree. It looked real, was incredibly easy to set up and didn’t involved sacrificing a live tree. But then the following year, I didn’t bother.

This year, that same neighbor and his family brought over a gift that I was to open before Christmas. In it, was a small artificial tree and a strand of white lights. Immediately I set it up on top of the cats’ cat tree and delighted as each cat had to sniff it, attempt to eat it and yes, knock it down twice. And that night, I fell asleep in my bed but I could see the lights and the tree from my room.

It’s funny that something as simple as a tree with a string of lights can bring such joy. I was in Del Mar earlier this week where everything was decked out and instead of the beauty making me feel cheery, it just made me feel sad, as if it marked another year in which I have somehow failed to create my own nuclear family. And yet as I look at my little tree and came home last night to find a wreath had been placed on my door by the neighbor elves, I realize there is much in a tree. Trees symbolize life.

And is not that what the Messiah came to give us?

In the act of my neighbor, who I don’t think even attends church, I see the Gospel being acted out here and now. And I am reminded that this is a time to rejoice.

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