Dec 032014

Jolana Malkston 4Once upon a time, a young couple went shopping for a Christmas tree. As the cliché goes, they barely had two nickels to rub together. He was serving in the US Army, which has never been famous for paying exorbitant salaries to enlisted men. She had two hefty student loans to repay. They spied a little artificial Christmas tree at the very end of an aisle that was stocked with much taller trees. The little tree was a display model, the last of its kind in stock, and the only artificial Christmas tree on sale. Its sale price didn’t break their budget.

They bought the little tree. They also bought two boxes of ornaments and a plastic star, also on sale, to decorate the little tree’s branches. They rushed home to their apartment, delighted with their bargains, and set about assembling the little tree. When they were done, she thought the little tree had a very merry look about it. Its curved up branches reminded her of smiles.

The ornaments they bought happened to be all one color—blue. The ornaments were not the traditional red and green Christmas colors, but the little tree wore them well—for three years—until the couple moved, became a tiny bit more affluent, and had a child. They bought a much bigger artificial Christmas tree. They left the little tree, alone and lonely, tucked in its box in the attic of their new home. They put the little tree’s blue plastic star atop the much bigger tree and hung the little tree’s blue ornaments on its branches.

The couple had another child after a few years. Soon, prior to Christmas each year, the two young children brought home handmade Christmas ornaments from school. Their handmade ornaments were also added to the branches of the much bigger tree.

Years later, the couple and their children moved from the South to the North when the dad received a promotion at work. Their new home had a cathedral ceiling. It also had a central fireplace attached to a very ugly, very odd-looking indoor fountain. They dismantled the ugly fountain immediately and turned it into a planter.

That first Christmas in their cathedral ceiling home, they decided to buy a live Christmas tree. They went out and bought the tallest tree they could find. As tall as it was, it didn’t reach the ceiling, but it did look impressive. They had to climb on a ladder to decorate the highest branches. One of their firstborn son’s teenage friends was so awed by the tree that he dubbed it “The Christmas Sequoia.”

The much bigger artificial tree never made it out of its box that year, but the little tree did. The couple decided the little tree would look very cool set up in the planter surrounded by all the wrapped Christmas gifts. The Christmas Sequoia used up all the store-bought Christmas ornaments, so the mom suggested decorating it with all the handmade Christmas ornaments their teenage sons had created during their elementary school years. The little tree wore them with pride.

That year also produced The Christmas of Shame. The Christmas Sequoia failed in its duty to protect The Manger beneath its branches. During the night, the couple’s incorrigible American Eskimo devil dog abducted the little Baby Jesus from The Manger and had most of him for a midnight snack. The little tree witnessed the sacrilegious atrocity but it could not speak and was unable to testify. Fortunately, the couple discovered forensic evidence that convicted the incorrigible devil dog of the hideous crime.

Humbly, the little tree held the secondary place of honor in the planter for several more Christmases. Soon the grown children moved away and the couple decided to downsize. They moved to a raised ranch on a small lake. At Christmas, they took the much bigger artificial tree out of its box, Assembling the much bigger tree was difficult. They noticed signs of age and breakage, so they set it outside for the trash collector. The little tree had cause for alarm. It was older than the much bigger tree. It waited anxiously but no one came for it to toss it out with the trash.

Shortly after Christmas, a newer and even larger box joined the little tree in the attic. The label on the newer and even larger box identified the contents as a 7-foot tall pre-lighted artificial Christmas tree. The little tree realized another big tree had taken its place once again. Its little heart ached with disappointment.

The following Christmas, the couple took both tree boxes down from the attic. The great big pre-lighted artificial tree nabbed the place of honor to the left of the fireplace in the upper level living room where the Christmas decorations were tasteful and elegant. The little tree was relegated to the lower level family room where it was surrounded by garish guyified Christmas decorations suitable only for a man cave.

Fortunately for the little tree, the mom saved it from total humiliation. She got out the box filled with the handmade Christmas tree ornaments the couple’s grown children had created when they were in elementary school. Her eyes misted as she hung them on the little tree’s branches with care. She then placed a brand new angel atop the little tree. The little tree nearly burst with pride. Its lights twinkled brighter than ever that year.

It was the same story Christmas after Christmas—assemble the great big pre-lighted tree upstairs, the little tree downstairs—until one year the couple had an epiphany. Having to put together and take apart two artificial Christmas trees every year was a drag. They checked, and sure enough the little tree was small enough to fit under the stairs to the lower level without taking it apart. They could leave the lights and ornaments on the little tree, just remove the Angel from the top, and throw a sheet over it to keep it dust free before tucking it under the stairs. It was a stroke of genius. The storage nook under the stairs became the little tree’s new home.

Then came the year of the big change. The grown children had children of their own. They no longer wanted to travel with their children and all the Christmas gifts to visit their parents at Christmas. They wanted their parents to travel to visit them at Christmas from then on.

The dad lost most of his enthusiasm for Christmas decorating. He couldn’t see his way to doing much decorating if the couple wouldn’t be at home for Christmas. At first, he hauled out the great big pre-lighted artificial tree and set it up in the upper level living room. He didn’t bother with the little tree at all. It languished under the stairs for a few years that seemed to stretch into infinity.

About a week ago, everything changed again. On the morning after the family’s Thanksgiving celebration, Grandpa drafted his grandchildren to help decorate Grandma and Grandpa’s Christmas tree. He elected to leave the great big pre-lighted artificial tree in its box in the attic. He chose to retrieve the little tree from its home under the stairs instead.

The grandchildren shrieked with surprise when their grandfather slid the little tree out from under the stairs and removed the sheet that covered it. They followed him up the stairs to the upper level living room where he set the little tree on a round table in the lone place of honor to the left of the fireplace. The humble little tree was overjoyed. It had come full circle.

The decorating commenced with zeal, and soon the little tree was resplendent with both store-bought and handmade ornaments, beads and garlands, twinkle lights, and a bright shining Angel on top. Grandpa asked Grandma to adjust the little tree’s branches because they curved up too much. She decided not to. She left the branches just as they were because they made the little tree looked so very merry.

As a matter of fact, its curved branches made the little tree look as if it were smiling all over.

Christmas Tree




  10 Responses to “The Little Christmas Tree That Smiled”

  1. Well Lana, I had just about decided not to decorate at all this Christmas. For some reason, I lost my Christmas spirit this year. Then as I read your blog, tears began to blur my sight, a painful lump crowded my throat my nose began to run and you know what? I’ve decided to dig out our tree with all the homemade ornaments from the grandkids, after all – just as soon as the carpet installers leave this afternoon and I can put all the furniture back in the correct rooms. Right now, I’ll just sit in the back of the house among the packing boxes and misplaced furniture and listen to Christmas music. Thanks for the charming story and for helping me find Christmas again.

    • Loralee, I teared up reading your comment. As a writer yourself, you know how much we hope what we write makes a positive difference in someone’s life. You not only made my day, you made my entire Christmas season and on into next year. Thank you. 🙂

  2. What a delightful story, Lana. It brought back memories of the many sized and type trees we’ve enjoyed over the years. I think the best ones were the trees the children and years later grandchildren helped decorate. I also remember a live tree we bought one year then planted. It grew into a beautiful fir tree. Thanks for the memories.

  3. I thought about the tree that came to live with us as I read your post. When I was growing up, we had two trees. One live one and one artificial one. When I married, my parents gave us the artificial tree and it lived with us for many years. One year we decided to get our own real tree… but soon, we ended up back with our “family” tree. That tree traveled from my mom and dad’s house to mine. It was so easy to put up and was my favorite tree. When it came time to pass it on, I gave it to one of my sisters. Like the tree in your story, it keeps on giving to each of us as we remember our holidays past. Thanks for sharing your story!

    • Thanks for sharing your story too, Melissa. I’m sitting in the living room as I write this, and the special little tree that was the subject of my little Christmas tree “biography” is right across the room filling it with Christmas cheer. It brings back so many fond memories too. It’s a keeper. 🙂

  4. Coming full circle is exactly right. Like you, we have run the gamut of trees both live and artificial. Just tonight, we purchased a second, pre-lit with multi colored lights six foot, I think, artificial tree. Over the years, we’ve amassed more than enough ornaments, both store bought and kid made, to adorn both trees and then some. Now to decide exactly where to put them. Thanks for another great story, Jolana.

    • There’s just something about a Christmas tree, Margo. It’s one of the festive things that embodies the cheer of the Christmas season, and it brightens our homes and our lives for a little while each year. My late mother loved her Christmas decorations so much it was a struggle to get her to take them down when Christmas season was over. We had to draw the line one year when they were still up on Valentine’s Day! 🙂

  5. What a charming story. We’ve had artificial trees, live trees, cut our own trees. This will be the 1st time we’ve had 2 trees. At last, we’ll be able to hang all our ornaments. May be the last time, too. 🙂

    • Thanks, Diane. When you’re a grandma, it isn’t long before Christmas is at the kids’ house, but don’t let that stop you from putting your trees up. Invite the grandkids over. Let them do the work while you supervise. They’ll love it. 🙂

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