A real Christmas tree is a thing of great beauty. Usually grown on a small farm, a Christmas tree requires years of dedication, hard work, knowledge, and skill. A Christmas tree farm provides a habitat for wildlife, and when the trees are harvested, farmers usually re-plant. Then, when the holiday season comes to an end, a real tree can be recycled on the compost pile, or chopped up and used for mulch.
~~~~~We always were a real tree family. When I was a kid, we made the pilgrimage to the nursery early each December, and took our time choosing the perfect tree to load up and bring home. Then, in 1991, when I was eight years old, my dad decided to grow some himself. He placed his order for 1000 saplings, and when the tiny trees arrived early that spring, I could hardly believe that in just a few years, some of them would be 6 feet tall.
In the early 90's, I helped out with the maintenance – mostly mowing and pruning. As I entered The Terrible Teens, I lost interest in the farm. But, as an awkward 12-year-old, I grew attached to one particular tree, one that experienced some unfortunate growing pains. This poor tree never did make it into someone's home to be decorated and adored. In fact, it's still growing on the farm today, and since it has not been pruned for many years, it's free to grow wild and unkempt. It's possible that my dad left it there because he knew how much I liked it. It's more likely, though, that he knew nobody would buy it.
We don't grow Christmas trees on our farm anymore, but I'm grateful that we once did. They taught me the value in cultivating the fine art of patience, an art that seems to be vanishing. The long process of growing a Christmas tree reminds me of the days when we used to take the film out of our cameras, drive to the store and wait – not just an hour, but days for it to be sent off, developed, and sent back. Digital photography is certainly more convenient, but sometimes I yearn for that old anticipation of waiting for my treasured memories to be developed.
For a generation born after the Internet, a generation that may only know immediate gratification, a real tree is a rare opportunity to step outside, breathe in some cold winter air, and participate in an unhurried holiday tradition that still means something.