Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Velveteen Tree

There was once a "velveteen" tree, and in the beginning - though it was a nice tree, with a sturdy trunk of wood, textured to appear like the bark of a real tree, and branches that would fold up if the tree was inverted or laid on its side - it didn't seem like anything special. The man and the woman that bought the tree thought they were being practical. Real trees were getting more and more expensive - and it was such a bother to deal with fallen evergreen needles or worry about the dry branches catching fire some night while the couple was not at home. Besides, it seemed a waste to buy a tree that had, until recently, been a living thing - and then slowly watch it die.

So they bought a "fake" tree; but nearly everyone who saw the tree - its branches draped with lights and garland, hung with ornaments and candy canes, and topped with a beautiful angel - thought that it was real. The couple agreed that it was a fine tree - but it was not real to them. For a while, the "velveteen" tree was only used for those Christmases when the couple would be traveling out of town during the holidays. If they planned to be home for Christmas, they would buy a real tree - and the "velveteen" tree would remain another long year alone in its box, stuck in the basement or the garage. After a few years, the couple stopped buying real trees altogether and the "velveteen" tree was used exclusively. As time passed, those who saw the tree continued to remark about how real it appeared.

The couple had a daughter and then a son. As the years came and went, the children began to hang their expectations on the tree, like so many pieces of glittering tinsel - and often found their wishes fulfilled by the boxes and bags found underneath its branches on Christmas morning. The tree was ever-present in the family's holiday rituals: decorating, photos for the Christmas card, opening gifts. Where once only mother and father could hang ornaments on the highest branches or place the angel on top of the tree, now the boy could reach those spots most easily.

And so, after many years, the "velveteen" tree became real - rooted by the hopes and dreams of the children, watered by the patient care and affection of the mother. The tree was like a part of the family each Christmas - although no one had spoken a word about it. The father didn't seem to notice what had happened. In a way, it was strange that the news would be so tardy in coming to him; for he often spent time alone with the tree, late at night when everyone else was asleep, putting gifts in place, a hymn playing quietly, the only light in the room twinkling from the tiny colored bulbs on its branches.

But on one particular night, as he sat alone and looked at the tree, he realized it was true. There was no longer anything "fake" about the tree. It was a real and faithful friend - a part of Christmas that he could count on, that wouldn't let him down. Each branch was hung with ornaments of memory, not just glass or metal or wood - memories of his in-laws, his goddaughter, his children. Each string of lights or strand of garland was a cord that helped to bind together his family and friends, with a bond of shared experience, expectation and love. He remembered again that everyone, in large measure, decides what is real for themselves - so why not decide that life is really...good.

Christmas comes whether or not we are ready for it.
Get real - and don't let it pass you by.

Take care.

6 comments:

Middle Aged Woman said...

Awwww...you made me cry. That's such a sweet tale.

Except now I feel bad for keeping the tree in the garage 11 months of the year.

TennLady said...

Nice, Jim!

Ellie Belen said...

This is a lovely piece. It brought a tear to my eye too. Thanks for sharing it.

sunshine said...

I missed reading your blog, but you have redeem yourself with this beautiful post.
Wishing you and your family have a blessed Christmas and the best of the season last through 2010 and many more years to come!

Jim Styro said...

MAW: But I thought it was a happy story...

You could just leave the tree up all year 'round (I've heard there are people who do that) - but I'm betting you don't feel that bad.

TL: Thanks - we missed you at Diane & Pat's this year.

Ellie: I hope it was a happy tear - not a sad one. Oh, and one more thing...HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!

(Were you one of those kids that got gypped on presents because your birthday is so close to Christmas?)

Sunshine: I am all about redemption. Glad you liked the story.

Dear Readers: I went ahead and posted an audio version of The Velveteen Tree today. I thought the story deserved to be read aloud - and with musical accompaniment. Hope someone enjoys it. Take care.

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