The Perfect Tree
by Tif Sweeney, Walrus Contributor
The Christmas tree that stands in many homes this time of year has a long history, dating back to before the birth of Christ as a symbol of rebirth across a multitude of traditions. For many, it is the centerpiece for the warmest memories of the season, from finding the perfect tree to opening the perfect gifts that surround it.
My memories bring me back to my childhood, growing up in the mountains of the Big Sky State, where the only real choice of a tree you had was selecting the one you cut down yourself. The family would hop in the cab of the ole’ red Chevy and hit the unpaved roads that lead into the woods where we would scout for the special pine.
With snow piled high, four-wheel drive was a necessity, never knowing when we would have to bulldoze through deep drifts, leave the road to maneuver around downed trees, or drive on roads that had not been touched by anything other than the mountain breeze and sun beating down on the sparkly snow.
We had our share of Griswold Christmas Vacation moments, like the time a “quick” tree hunt turned into a day-long event, as we got stuck in the snow three times. After returning home from these outings, nothing hit the spot better than sitting in front of the wood stove drinking hot chocolate topped with mini-marshmallows.
Since those days in the mountains, I have celebrated without trees, on the road, with real trees from farms, fake trees from the box, and real trees from the store down the street. I still prefer the real trees, the scent of the pine not just a reminder of the season, but a trigger that brings back memories of a place that I will always call home even if my residence is no longer there. But pine holds more than just the smell of my yesterdays. It holds soft-felt ornaments, paper candy canes and glittering tomorrows, all made from my children’s hands.
Standing tall for thousands of years, the Christmas tree proclaims its rich history and meaning across multiple cultures. As I look at my homemade ornaments dangling on the pine, I see my story–rich in sentiment, rooted in the past and born of new beginnings. I see the perfect tree.