by Allison Reid from Ashton, ON
Our Christmas tree has always been the center piece of our home during the holiday season; it’s the ultimate symbol of Christmas. From the first Christmas my husband and I spent together, we agreed our tree had to be real and that it should be tall and lush. Sometime in the first week or two of December my husband would arrive home with a fresh tree strapped to the roof of the car.
As I would set up the metal stand he would trim the bottom, and before long we would have the impressive tree looking down on us from the corner of the living room. And if the mere sight of the hardy tree wasn’t enough to pull us both into the Christmas cheer, we could always rely on the ambrosial guide of the Silver Fir or Norway spruce to coax us into the spirit fully. Of course, my favorite part was after it was up, and together we would take out all of our decorations and hang each one on the tree. The last step was to turn on the lights and sing a verse of ‘Oh Christmas Tree,’ before inevitably saying, “Well, this is best tree yet!” Each year’s tree always seemed to top its predecessor.
That is, until the year my daughter, Eliza, was three. That was the year my husband decided to bring Eliza along with him when he bought the tree. To mark the occasion, he decided not only would they buy a tree; they would go to a tree farm and cut one down. In theory, it seemed like a great idea.
That year, I can remember waiting for them to arrive home, carols playing on the record player in the background, while I happily baked some short bread cookies. When I finally heard the door creak open, my husband came in first and winked at me. “So,” he whispered, “I Let Eliza pick out the tree this year…we just unloaded it from the car, you better come and take a look.” A little unsure what to expect, I stepped outside in my slippers. But when I saw the tree she had picked it was as if the record player abruptly scratched to a halt. There, resting against the side of the car was the shabbiest tree I had ever seen. A tree that looked custom-made for Charley Brown. Our trees had always been well over six feet; this puny one was at eye-level, had no noticeable scent and seemed to have dropped more needles than it held onto. But to three-year old Eliza, who stood proudly beside it, the tree was both tall and full.
I did my best to smile and hide the fact I was utterly deflated. I didn’t even feel like setting up the base anymore. What was the point, a coffee cup have provided enough support. And would there even be room for decorations and lights?
As we started to decorate the tree, I was still feeling discouraged. Eliza, content as ever with her choice, was happily decorating until suddenly she reached her hand out from one of the branches and said, “Look what I found Mommy”. There in her little hand, was an even smaller bird’s nest. The tiny nest was made mostly of twigs and pieces of bark and held together with mud. It was perfectly crafted. I explained to Eliza and her younger brother how a bird made the nest and at one time would have used it as a home. Both of the children were enthralled and wanted to hear more about how a little bird could actually make this nest.
Eventually, after much discussion, we decided we would put it back in the tree as if it were one of our Christmas decorations. It had been a lovely surprise.
It turned out we had a wonderful Christmas that year, as the little nest became my reminder not to get too caught up in having everything perfect and work out as planned– it’s too easy at a time like Christmas to get caught in the details and miss out on all the good stuff; like just being with friends and family. And we were lucky for that.
Now almost 30 years later we’ve seen an array of Christmas trees come and go, some tall and lush, others, smaller and more discreet. But each year my favorite part is still the decorating and ritual singing of ‘Oh Christmas Tree.’ And my favorite decoration is the little sparrow’s nest I keep wrapped up in tissue paper and hidden in an old shoebox box during the other eleven months of the year. The nest itself is starting to crumble and must be handled very, very carefully. No matter, each year we always manage to find room for it somewhere within the branches…regardless of the tree’s size.