Please Note: My book, The Happy Squire: Christmas stories to encourage and inspire, is a FREE PDF download on my website (http://www.chaddavid.ca/books/) as my main goal is to spread some Christmas cheer. Please feel free to tell others about the download as your own way of spreading joy. The following is the opening story to the book and one of my favourites. It was inspired by seeing a lone Christmas tree in a grocery store parking lot on my way to work a couple days after Christmas. It was also inspired by a scene in the Animaniacs’ Christmas episode that stuck with me.
The Ultimate Christmas Tree
Some of the other trees had moments of feeling sorry for Rose because of her obsession with perfection, but none of them dared talk to her because she could be downright mean. Behind her back, they would talk though. Some said that “Rose smells like manure” – ew – and “Rose is a giant thorn in disguise” – ouch – and “Roses are red, but Rose is blue; she has the warmth of an icicle” – burn. (Trees aren’t very good at rhyming, but you get the idea).Being a Christmas tree is the greatest position in all of plant kingdom. These trees are groomed and manicured to be as beautiful as possible because they will be used to celebrate the most wonderful time of year. On one Christmas tree farm, there was one particular tree that grew like no other. Her name was Rose. It was an unusual name for a tree, but it helped emphasize how beautiful she was (and how thorny she could be). There was no particular reason why she was so beautiful, but there were guesses: “Perhaps she was fertilized by stardust,” said some. “Perhaps her seed was planted by an angel,” said others. Whatever it was, Rose was magnificent… and she knew it. Unfortunately, as with most beautiful things, Rose became obsessed with her appearance. The more people admired her, the more pressure she felt to be beautiful. On top of this, the more concerned she was with being beautiful, the more judgmental she became of others. It was a vicious cycle that left her heart cold. She was beautiful, but this became a barrier for her. Some of the woodland creatures were afraid they weren’t good enough to approach Rose while others couldn’t be bothered because there was nothing welcoming about her. One time, a squirrel in desperation climbed her to escape his predator, but Rose threw him from her branches because she didn’t want to be damaged. Rumors quickly spread and the small creatures kept their distance. Even the birds avoided her and they’re bird-brained. Rose never really noticed that she was being avoided, and even if she had, she wouldn’t have really cared because she was so obsessed with looking her best. Unfortunately, she was so worried about pleasing the farmers that whenever one gave another tree attention, she would seethe with jealousy. She would say to herself, “Look at how hard I’m working and how good I look! I should be all the farmers need to be happy.”
As the years passed, the Christmas finally came when all of the trees in Rose’s field were to be cut down and shipped to the store to be sold. This was an exciting time for these trees. The day before they were to be cut down, they had a great celebration where they said good-bye to their animal and bird friends. All the trees were bursting with anticipation… except Rose. She was still busy trying to be perfect.
During the cutting down time, all of Rose’s hard work for perfection seemed to pay off as she was given special treatment by the farmers. They were particularly careful not to bend any of her branches when they handled her and they even put her in a special stand all by herself. When she and her fellow trees arrived at the store, she was put out front as a way to draw in customers while the other trees were kept in the back. Everyone thought she looked so beautiful. Everyone admired her. Everyone was amazed at how perfect she was… yet no one wanted to buy her. She was beautiful, but there was something unwelcoming about her. A couple people inquired, but she was too expensive for them, so they bought a different tree instead. Each time someone chose another tree, Rose was hurt as she thought, “Why didn’t they choose me? I’m much more beautiful than any of the other trees. What do I have to do to impress people enough to want me?” With each rejection, it was harder and harder for Rose’s branches and needles not to droop just a little more. Hours turned into days, days turned into weeks, and soon all of the trees were bought and taken home… except for Rose. And because of time and discouragement, she was now just a glimpse of her original beauty.
When the store officially closed for Christmas Eve, Rose was the only living thing left. Even the waving Santa was turned off. She was completely alone, and it was official, no one had wanted to bring Rose home for Christmas. Her entire life was spent preparing for this experience and now she was going to be alone at Christmas. Rose was confused and in a state that was flipping between sad and angry: “I tried so hard to be the most beautiful tree anyone has seen and here I am, alone. What more could I have done?” Rose’s part anger soon began to settle into full blown sadness and she began to cry and cry with tears of sap rolling down her trunk. Her needles fell and her branches drooped like wet hair.
She didn’t know how long she had been in that state when a car pulled up beside her. It was an older car that was in need of a lot of love (or to be scrapped). This car looked quite the opposite of the beauty Rose once displayed. In her earlier days, she would’ve snubbed her nose at it and made fun of whoever drove it, but she was so desperate for company that she didn’t even mind the puff of black smoke the tailpipe shot out when the car was turned off.
Soon the car door slowly opened and closed, and a woman in an outfit that matched the car appeared in front of Rose. Rose was suddenly aware of how droopy her branches looked and how saggy her needles were. She was embarrassed, but there was nothing she could do. This was her – imperfect. Slowly Rose looked at the woman’s face afraid to see the disappointment in her eyes because Rose was the only tree left and she didn’t have much beauty to offer. Instead, the woman had tears in her eyes, and she wasn’t sad. The tears were for another reason. The woman looked up and down Rose and a smile grew on her face as she whispered, “You’re perfect.” With that, the woman pulled a box out of her trunk and began to decorate the tree. There was a mix of ornaments. They were nothing like the fancy decorations on the trees in store displays. There were paper chains, old toys with hooks in them, and ornaments so old they were likely tossed out by people who felt their beauty was too far gone to keep. These were obviously ornaments the woman had gathered and made. They were nothing like the ones Rose imagined would be hung on her branches… yet they were beautiful. They were better than beautiful; they were… perfect. And with each ornament the woman put on the tree, Rose regained a little more strength. By the time the woman was done putting on all of the decorations, Rose had regained her original brilliance, but this time she was covered in decorations like a true Christmas tree.
In the morning, the backdoor of the car opened to reveal two young children. They had been sleeping in the car while their mom worked to set things up. The children quickly jumped out of their seats and screamed with joy when they saw the tree. It was magnificent. “Mom, Santa was here!” they cheered. Under the tree were several presents wrapped in newspaper and homemade bows. The kids bounced around and soon began to dance around the tree and sing, “Oh, Christmas tree, oh, Christmas tree…”
With heavy bags under her eyes after her long night of work, their mom emerged from the car. Rose could tell the woman was exhausted, but she was happy as she saw how excited her children were and she beamed when they hugged her. Rose had never seen anything like this before. This family clearly didn’t have a lot. They lived in an old car and wore old clothes, but they were the most beautiful people Rose had ever seen. In that moment, something changed in Rose. She realized that life isn’t about being good enough; it’s about loving enough. Rose had missed that. This time Rose felt tears of sap slide down her trunk because she was so full of joy. This was what Rose had longed for, but didn’t know how to get.
Suddenly, Rose felt a weight on her one branch… and then another… and another… and another. Then there was a strange digging into her trunk. Birds were landing on her branches. Small creatures were climbing up her trunk to sit in her foliage. Soon, Rose was bursting with creatures wanting to be close to her because she was so warm. She had never experienced this before and it felt… right. The family who was once hugging each other was now staring slack-jawed at the tree filled with birds and small creatures. They had never seen anything like that before. No one had. This truly was a magical Christmas.
Over the next few days, Rose, like many other trees, was taken down and dropped off at a park for her final resting place. As Rose lived her remaining days on her side in a field crammed with other trees, she had never been happier. She now understood what it meant to have friends, and she loved joining in on the sharing of their Christmas stories.
In the field of former Christmas trees, everyone was happy, but no tree was as happy as Rose as she was now glistening with love and joy. Birds bumped into each other in order to have a chance to rest on her branches while animals fought to use her as their home because she was so warm. Once again, Rose was the most beautiful tree in the field, but this time, her beauty was real. This time, her beauty was from her love and that made all the difference.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)