When it first came, it was one of the most popular styles. I can’t remember if it was a Douglas or Noble. I remember it being covered in white “snow”, and supposedly had the scent of a real tree. It was economical and practical, and it became the tradition year after year. In fact, it was our family tradition for almost 15 years.
Each December, my father would proudly bring out the tree. Over time, the snow would flake off, with only bits of it remaining during the latter years. The ornaments were fewer than before; the ones remaining were slightly faded. Our childhood ornament projects were proudly displayed. Beneath the tree was fairly bare.
I always looked forward to that tree. It didn’t matter what was beneath it. It was something that was always there and something that my dad loved to do for us. We understood from a young age that real trees with overflowing gifts wasn’t something that happened for us. It didn’t bother us, and I can’t say that it mattered to me. We have a handful of photos in front of that tree. I even remember my dad asking me to take a photo of him sitting next to it. Just him.
It wasn’t about the tree so much. It wasn’t just a decoration to me. It represented so much more than that.
What we did love was that our dad would find the one thing that we all wanted, and it would magically appear on or under the tree on Christmas morning. It was always so exciting and meant so much more than any bundle of gifts.
Years later, after my dad passed, it was time to leave behind remnants of our childhood. As part of the purging process, we had to decide what to do with my dad’s tree. It was very old, and barely any white was left on it. The box in which it came in was torn, and portions of the cardboard had softened over time. We didn’t know what happened with the most of the ornaments. It was hard to think about it, but it was time to let it go.
In my own home, I stuck with artificial trees. I never got the same kind as the one we had. I accumulated different ornaments, but none that resembled the ones we had before. A few years ago, we finally got a real tree. I loved it. I continued to buy those trees thereafter.
After our son entered toddlerhood, we had to say a temporary goodbye to the real trees. My husband opted for a skinny artificial. It felt wrong at first. It wasn’t the same kind that I was used to seeing.
When we were done decorating it, I felt a sense of familiarity. I looked at all of our carefully selected ornaments. They didn’t all match, but they represented different things about our family – characters we loved, things from our childhood, moments in time.
I realized that the memory of my father’s tree lived on. I can only imagine this was why my father dutifully put up the tree each year. It was never about the way a tree looked, or if it was real or not. It didn’t matter how many presents were beneath it.
I gazed at the simple beauty of the tree, and the look on my son’s face as he stared in wonder. I watched him carefully touch the ornaments, and smile when the interactive ones were turned on. I thought about how one day, I would explain what these ornaments represented.
Every day since that tree was put up, my son always looks at it at least once a day. The tree simply gives him joy. That same feeling I had as a child came back. The meaning of my father’s tree was never lost. A warmth filled my heart and I knew that somewhere, my father was looking at us smiling.