I’ll always remember the day my son Ezra Star renounced our well-loved tradition of cutting down a tree for Christmas time.
It was last year, early December, Arayla was 9 at the time, and Ezra was newly 6. We arrived at our favorite, old-fashioned Christmas Tree Farm in Sebastopol, where you can go and wander around peacefully, weaving through all the trees, until you find and choose your perfect, special tree, and then watch them cut it down, carry it off, and wrap it up in rustic twine while you stand to the side, sipping freshly made hot cocoa…
Arayla, Ezra, and I were all in sweet holiday spirits, excited to embark on our annual adventure of brightening and decorating our home. All was unfolding perfectly well; after deliberating back and forth between our two favorite trees, we finally selected one, and Arayla ran off to fetch The Man With The Saw.
“This is the one?!’ asked the playful, bright-eyed young man, clearly enjoying his holiday job. “Yep!” my kids cried out gleefully in response, “That’s our tree!” So he turned on his electric saw, put it up carefully to the bottom of the trunk, and cut it down.
Right away I noticed all was not well with my tender-hearted young son. He looked a bit pale, and was staring at the small remaining stump in the ground, exuding a sense of unease and sadness. As the oblivious, jolly, tree-cutting man carried our tree off over his shoulder to be wrapped, Arayla joyfully skipped off after him, not wanting to miss a moment.
I kneeled down by Ezra, and said: “What is it My Love?” He looked up at me with his eyes brimming over with tears, and said with great angst: “We killed it. We killed that tree, Mom. We took it from the Earth. We took its life… for Christmas!” He shook his head sadly, as though with disbelief that we could be responsible for such ignorant violence, slumped his little shoulders down, and started walking slowly away from me.
What a bewildering and surprising moment for me as a mom! It was true~ we had killed it~ a beautiful living thing, for our little holiday ritual. It was one of those unexpected losses I had delivered to my child’s heart. Gosh~ what to do now?
I remember as we drove home I kept trying to justify our choice, and make Ezra feel better about it somehow, since what was done was done? So we talked about how we were going to set up our tree all cozy in the living room, and how we would honor it, and let its last days of life be filled with love and cheer and beauty. How it was going to be SO well-loved.
Good try, Mama. I watched Ezra in the rear-view mirror, keeping one hand resting on the tree, the whole drive home, and every once in a while I would hear him whisper soberly to the tree: “I’m sorry that we killed your life, Tree. So sorry about that.” 🙁
Later, after we got the tree all set up in its stand, we tried to shift the mood. I put on holiday music, made a fire, and carried the precious boxes of longtime-collected ornaments into the living room. We wrapped the tree in white Christmas lights, and Arayla, my happy little holiday girl, was emanating sheer delight as she proceeded with our ritual of going through the ornaments~ “Remember when we got this butterfly one, Mom? When we still lived in Ashland? Oooh~ I made you this one at school, when I was 3!!… Was this one from when you were little, Mama??”
Arayla skipped back and forth between the boxes and the tree, carefully hanging each sparkling ornament with joyous care. Meanwhile, starkly juxtaposed, Ezra stood nearby the tree, one hand placed kindly on its trunk, clearly grieving with guilt and remorse. Every once in a while I would hear him repeat: “I’m really, really sorry Tree. So sorry about cutting down your life.”
Well, suffice it to say, my heart barely survived that Christmas tree ritual! And so this year we were very clear that we would NOT be “cutting down the life” of any tree for our holiday rituals; instead we would be getting a LIVE tree, with the intention of caring for it, decorating it for the holidays, and someday, after it outgrows its pot, planting it back in the earth someplace that can welcome a potentially 40 foot tall Fir!
Here are the children yesterday after we decorated our sweet, little, live baby tree.
I’m happy to report: no trees harmed, and not a single tear shed.
(Maybe someday it will grow into its Christmas Star. ;-))