The essential Christmas tree

Elise T. Chisolm

December 22, 1992|By Elise T. Chisolm

She is only 6, and when I asked her what she wanted for Christmas she said, "a Christmas tree." I was surprised, as I didn't think a child that young would ask for that.

But then she added, "We didn't have any money for one last year, so maybe this year will be different."

She is an inner city child, a one-parent child, a child of the recession, a victim of our times. Her mother has been jobless.

I wanted to give her the money for a tree, or send her mother the money. But I didn't know her mother. So I did nothing. So often we do nothing.

I remember when we were too poor to buy a tree. So out of shelf paper I made a large colorful pine tree and hung it on the living room wall. My children were 1 and 3, and the oldest enjoyed making the paper cut-outs for decorations. I remember being sad, because I missed the sweet smell of pine needles and sap permeating our house -- the memories a real tree evoked my own childhood. But that year we were lucky to afford a few presents for the kids.

Then another Christmas during World War II we caught a tumble weed against our fence, sprayed it silver and used it for a Christmas tree. There were just the two of us back then.

A wise man might say that a tree isn't essential to the holiday time. But I say the living tree does something important -- it brings us winter light to dispel winter darkness. It's a reminder of Earth and sky come to visit for a while in our homes.

Regardless of religion, surely a tree reassures us that nature is not altogether dead under ice, snow and cold. A tree is a token of hope.

And even an artificial tree is a symbol, an image that brings comfort.

Yet, I wonder, are trees going out of style in this high-tech world? Will tall plastic greenery replace them?

I make some calls to find out. My Shell station has put up a real tree. The city jail has a decorated tree, the Joseph Richey Hospice has a 7-foot artificial tree in the living room.

The Waxter Center, a multipurpose senior center, has a city-donated tree topped with a dove.

The fire house near me has a green tree, the Hilltop Hair Shoppe in my neighborhood has a tree. But greatest of all to me is the small decorated tree placed on a huge crane of a high rise under construction.

I just found out my young inner city friend will have a tree after all. She tells me it will have an angel on top.

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