Thursday, December 6, 2007

A Christmas Tree Story

Every year cable television provides us with endless hours of touching Christmas Stories.

Jimmy Stewart learns the value of friends and family, the Grinch discovers that perhaps "Christmas is just a little bit more" than shopping and dinner parties and while Snoopy embraces commercialism, Charlie Brown and friends come together to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.

Well, this is a different story. In fact, a true story, but since my memory is hazy I'll hope Oprah won't call me out about the details.

Years ago in the north woods of Maine lived a large family in a small town.

Now folks who live in Maine are a different breed of people. They actually call themselves Maniacs and for good reason. You have to be crazy or at least pretty resilient when you live in a place where the average high temperature on Christmas day is only 18 degrees.

Over the years the family prospered and the town grew. For nearly 100 years they called the small town home, ran a dry goods store, a couple of restaurants, taught in the local schools even coached the local high school football team to a state championship.

Back in the early 1960's a young member of the family planted a sapling Christmas tree at the town square, where all of the people in the town could enjoy the tree. The tree grew and every year the tree was decorated by the family Dry Goods Store and the young man who planted the tree.

Years went by and the Christmas tree grew and grew. It survived ice storms and even a couple of hit and run drivers. It was a wonderful Christmas tree. Nearly 20 feet tall, the tree was healthy and strong, enjoyed by all and it was real!

One summer the local town decided to build a park around the lake behind the Christmas tree. They paid thousands of dollars to hire a consultant and architect to design the park and even built a gazebo to overlook the lake. With park benches and sidewalks it was a wonderful park. But people soon complained that with so much money spent on the gazebo and the water front park it was a shame that no one could see it because of that tree that was in the way.

The argument raged for weeks with supporters for and against. The city took the position that since the tree represented Christmas perhaps the tree should be removed. After all, the gazebo was a huge investment and they were very proud of it, and the tree was just a tree.

The young man who planted the tree objected but his voice was not heard for by now he was old and old people don't know anything about progress.

Then it was suggested, that if they were going to have a Christmas tree maybe it should be somewhere else, some place where it wouldn't block the view of the lake and the nice gazebo. They had to make a decision, because soon Christmas would be upon them.

The Dry Goods store that had always decorated the tree had closed a few years before, after a Wal-Mart came to town. The store just couldn't compete with boots and jackets made in China. But the once young man still enjoyed decorating the tree, the last of his family's traditions that he was able to keep alive.

The arguing became unpleasant, as the tree was called ridiculous, an eyesore and even a traffic hazard. This of course made the once young man feel bad, that perhaps he had made a mistake long ago by planting the tree.

So on Thanksgiving day when the once young man would normally string the lights and decorate the tree, he simply took out a chainsaw and cut the tree down. Then he laid it on a long trailer and took it away.

The next day the town's people were in dismay. Someone stole their Christmas Tree they cried and police were sent to investigate. A town meeting was called and everyone attended including the once young man.

With the entire town gathered, he told them that it was just a tree. That it once meant a lot to him, but when everyone began fighting about the tree it had lost it's purpose; which was to add joy and to bring the Christmas spirit to all who passed by. So rather than have everyone fight about the tree he simply ended the argument.

With that he silently walked away.

Today the town will erect a "cut tree" in the parking lot down the street from where the live tree stood for so many years. The view of the park and the gazebo are no longer blocked by the once proud and very large "real" Christmas Tree.

The fire department does a very good job of securing the tree to keep it from falling over in the often strong winter winds. But somehow it's just not the same as a live tree.

Even now, several years' later people still ask…. "Whatever happened to the really big tree?"

So the moral is simple, take care of what you have, and take nothing for granted, for it may not be there next Christmas.

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