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The Sad Little Tree

By Stan Evans, President, SFAOL

Here it was, the night before Christmas. The tree lot that had been so busy for weeks was all but abandoned, and only a few trees remained. The littlest tree left on the lot had been so excited about the idea of going home with a family that would decorate him with beautiful ornaments and lights. But as Christmas grew closer and closer, no one had chosen him. Though the little tree had a graceful, pretty shape, some of his lower branches had been bent and broken by the workers who brought him to the lot. He figured that was the reason why all the Christmas-tree shoppers had bypassed him.

And now the owner of the lot was looking at his watch. He had his own Christmas celebration to go to, and soon would be closing up. The little tree grew sadder and sadder. He was almost ready to give up. Only a story that his grandfather tree, back in the forest, had told him still gave him hope. His grandfather, who was very tall and very wise, had said that when he was the little tree’s size, most people waited until Christmas Eve to come to the forest in horse-drawn wagons to cut a tree.

The little tree asked why his grandfather hadn't been taken. When he had been the right size to be a Christmas tree, the grandfather said, the snow was very deep that year, and no family was able to get to where he stood, deep in the woods.

The grandfather tree remembered he had been very sad, because most of his friends had become Christmas trees in earlier years, and he was looking forward to his own time to brighten a home. But no one could reach him that year, and he kept growing and growing. When the next Christmas came, he was too tall to go into a house. And so he stayed in the forest.

The little tree thought about his grandfather’s story. The only thing sadder seemed to be his own fate: to be cut down, taken to a lot, but still not get to be a Christmas tree. But suddenly a family of a father, mother, little boy and a beautiful little girl hurried onto the lot. The owner greeted the family and asked if he could help them. They said they had been very busy and had just now rushed off to buy their tree. “Are we too late?” the frantic father asked. The owner said they were not.

Just then the grandfather of the family walked slowly onto the lot. When the father parked the car, the children had jumped out quickly and ran to the lot, because they were worried about being too late to buy a Christmas tree. Their parents quickly followed to be sure that no harm came to the children, and the grandfather had been left behind. As he rejoined the family he heard the father grumbling once again about waiting so long. “And we still have to buy all our lights and decorations…”

"When I was a boy," the grandfather said calmly, "my family always got our tree on Christmas Eve.We didn’t even think about getting it before then."

“Gee,” thought the little tree, who was overhearing the talk. “That’s just what my grandfather tree told me.”

The harried father sharply responded, "Yes, Dad, I know. But way back then, a big part of getting into the Christmas spirit was hitching up the horses to the wagon and going to the forest to cut down a tree. In fact, in those days you even made your own Christmas decorations. But this is the modern age, and we do things differently now. So let’s get a move on!”

The father seemed impatient and annoyed. But the children’s reaction was different. "Wow!" they shouted in unison. “Did you really make your own Christmas decorations, Grandpa?" They seemed fascinated by the idea.

"Well, yes we did,” the old man replied with a smile. “In those days my family didn't have the electric lights, the glitter and the brightly colored balls you see today. My dad couldn't afford them back then—but we had more fun making them anyway."

"Mom," the little girl said, "could we make our own decorations? Can we? Can we, please?”

"Well, I don’t know about that, honey,” the mother responded slowly.

“Oh, I hope they do,” mused the little tree. “And I hope they choose me. None of my tree friends have had homemade decorations. That would be so nice.”

"I know what I'm going to make for a decoration!" the little girl told her brother. "What?" he asked. "A paper chain like we made in school for our Christmas tree there. We already have some colored paper at home. We won’t have to buy any."

What a neat idea!” the boy said. “But what can I make?"

"We used to string popcorn into chains," the grandfather suggested.

"Popcorn chains? I never heard of that. How did you do it?” asked the puzzled boy.

"Well, first you pop the popcorn. Then you get a needle and thread and string the pretty white kernels together. But I’ll let you in on a secret: We always made a lot more popcorn than we needed for the chains, because somehow most of it went down our mouths instead of on the tree. My mother would laugh, ‘You children are going to have popcorn stars instead of popcorn chains unless you slow down on the eating.”’ But she never made us stop.”

“Yay!” said the little boy. “I love popcorn. We have some in the pantry. We’ll just throw it in the microwave.”

“Popcorn!” thought the little tree. “That would even smell good. Oh, they’ve just got to choose me.”

“You know, dear,” said the woman to her husband. “I’m starting to like this idea. It is a little unusual, but it certainly has advantages. We could save money on commercial decorations, we can avoid those last-minute mobs at the stores, we can get home earlier and go to bed earlier, then get up earlier tomorrow to see what Santa brought. It’ll be fun to look through all our chests and cabinets for decoration ideas. And when we’re finished, we’ll have the most original tree in town.”

“Yes, Dad, yes!” called out the children in unison. “Please, please!”

And in a silent voice that humans were unable to hear, the little tree repeated: “Yes, Dad, yes! Please!”

“Well, I guess it’ll be OK,” conceded the father grudgingly, afraid that his manly authority was being challenged. “So let’s pick a tree and get going.” And then to the little tree’s dismay, the father walked right up to the only big tree left on the lot.

The little tree realized that to reassert himself, the father was going to choose a big macho tree instead of a small one. The little tree felt his last hope slipping away. But then he felt a gentle, kindly presence settle upon him.

Looking away from the determined father, the little tree saw the grandfather smiling down at him. “Son,” the old man called out softly to the children’s father, “before you make up your mind, let’s take a look at this little tree as well.”

The mother and the children came running up. “Why, it’s exquisite!” exclaimed the mother. “What a pretty shape.”

“Oh, and it’s so cute and friendly, too,” added the little girl. “And it’s exactly the same height as me!” said the boy.

The little tree felt a surge of hope. But it dwindled as a frown crossed the father’s face.

“I’ll admit it’s a nice tree,” he said reluctantly. “And a small one would be easier to decorate at this late hour. But look—some of the bottom branches are twisted and broken. No matter how we turn it, the side facing out will not look good.”

The little tree felt like crying. “So near, and yet so far,” he sighed, resigned to his lonely fate.

But then the grandfather spoke softly once again. “Son, you have all those woodworking tools right there in your workshop. With a little cutting and sawing, a little bit of wiring branches into place, I think you could make this tree look perfect.”

“Sure you could, Dad!” yelled the little boy. “I’ll help you with it. You can teach me how.”

“I know you can do it, Daddy,” said the little girl. “My Daddy can fix ANYTHING!!”

The father broke into a huge grin. In fact, he was proud of his skill with his tools, and he had not even realized that his children had noticed. This would be a chance to impress them and his wife, and to demonstrate he was the man of the house.

So the little tree was loaded into the family’s station wagon, ready to be taken home and become the happiest, most original Christmas tree in town. At the very last minute his destiny had changed from a gloomy one to the one he had longed for.

“I’m so lucky,” thought the little tree. “My dream has come true. And I owe it all to that nice grandfather.”

At that moment, the grandfather started to close the station wagon door upon the happy little tree. But just before he did, the old man actually winked at the little tree. And for a split-second there, the little tree could have sworn that this kind and gentle human grandfather looked very much like the tall and wise old grandfather tree keeping watch in the deep, snowy forest.

 Happy Holidays to all, from SFAOL

 

Other Christmas Stories


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