97: The Quest for the Perfect Tree

97: The Quest for the Perfect Tree

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

The Quest for the Perfect Tree

Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.

~Charles R. Swindoll

“None of them are calling to me yet,” I yelled out to my wife Christine and the kids, as we wandered a picturesque Christmas tree farm on the rural east end of Long Island.

“Dad, trees don’t talk,” my daughter Erin insisted with her glove-covered hands clenched into tight little fists.

“Sure they do, sweetheart. Every year I can hear the right one saying, ‘Pick me. Take me home with you,’ ” I said.

“Dad, just pick one already. It’s freezing out, and I’m starving,” my son Patrick added.

The children’s frustration with my selection methodology had become as much a part of the Christmas tradition as picking out the tree.

“How about this one?” Erin asked.

“That’s way too big,” Christine replied.

Every year, Christine was adamant that we were going to bring home a smaller tree. But each Christmas we brought one home that scraped the paint off the ceiling when we stood it up in the living room.

“Hey, Dad, what about this one?” Patrick called out from the next row of trees.

“I don’t know, Pat. It’s kind of thin in the back.” I replied.

“We can just put that side up against the wall,” Christine suggested.

“There are thousands of trees out here. I don’t think we have to settle for one that isn’t perfect,” I said just before a snowball hit me squarely in the back.

I turned to see Patrick and Erin laughing and high-fiving each other.

“Oh, you better run, Pat!” I shouted as I chased him and his sister through the trees.

Eventually, we all agreed on a tree that would brighten our Christmas. But before we could cut it down, we had to take care of one more annual tradition.

“Okay kids, get in front of the tree and give me a nice smile,” Christine said, taking the camera out of her purse.

“Oh, Mom,” Patrick and Erin groaned in unison.

“I need this for our Christmas card. It will only take two seconds.”

When Christine was done with the picture, it was time to get down to business. I cleared away some snow and lay down on the ground by the base of the tree. But before I started cutting, I stood up and turned to Patrick.

“Why don’t you cut it down this year, Pat?”

“Really, Dad?”

“I think you’re old enough now,” I said, handing him the saw.

When Patrick finished, we waited for the tractor pulling a trailer to bring us to the entrance with other families that had found their perfect trees.

•••

That’s how our Christmas tree selection used to go, but sadly, this Christmas we wouldn’t be making our annual trek to the Christmas tree farm. Patrick would not be coming home from his freshman year of college until December 22. Due to other holiday commitments, we could not wait until then to get our tree. We also could not bring ourselves to go to the Christmas tree farm without him.

So Christine and I went to a local retailer with Erin to pick out a tree that someone else had cut down. We found a nice one, but it could not compete with any tree we had brought home from the farm.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Christine asked me as we inched forward in the line at the store.

I did not respond, lost in thought.

“Hello? Anyone in there?” Erin asked, shaking my arm.

“Oh, sorry, I was spacing out there for a minute,” I said.

“No kidding. What were you thinking about?” Christine asked.

“The Christmas tree farm — lots of great memories out there.”

Turning to my daughter I asked, “What is your favorite memory of the Christmas tree farm?”

“Probably the time we saw the baby deer,” she replied. “She was so cute.”

“That was very cool,” I said. “What do you think your brother’s favorite memory was?”

Erin thought about the question for a few moments before replying.

“Well, we all know his favorite part of the trip each year was stopping at the diner for lunch on the way home.”

Christine and I laughed and nodded in agreement.

“But the time he nailed you with the snowball was probably his favorite.”

“I’m sure it was,” I replied, smiling.

As I wrestled with the tree — and my thoughts — while tying it to the roof of the van, a comforting thought occurred to me. It had always been the time we spent together as a family at the Christmas tree farm that was perfect — not the trees.

~Ron Geelan

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