I hope this message finds you in good spirit and enjoying the holidays. Sometimes life brings us challenges during the season but, as I’m sure you know by now, things are not always as they appear on the surface. One of life’s basic lessons is learning to find the beauty in situations that are “less than perfect.”
So today, I’m sharing a very personal story I wrote a while back that reminds me to focus on the good amidst all the mania that the holidays often bring.
Once upon a time…
Not so many years ago, there once stood a huge nursery called Mortigan’s. This nursery wasn’t for babies, but for plants. There were so many plants, flowers, ferns and trees that Mortigan’s took up almost a whole square block. But that was in the days long before a shopping center covered this land on Third Street. This land not far from the La Brea Tar Pits where Saber Tooth Tigers used to roam.
At Christmas time Mortigan’s was very, very busy. It was filled with crowds of rich people who had lots of money to spend. They wanted the very best of everything. The best wreaths and poinsettia plants and Christmas trees. Some of the tall, beautiful Christmas trees cost $100 or more. And those Christmas trees were so very proud of themselves. They had shiny red stands and they stood so tall that they could see over the whole nursery. They knew they were the most special trees there because their price tags told them so.
But off in a far back corner of the big nursery, there stood a Lopsided Little Christmas Tree. She didn’t have a shiny red stand like all the other trees. She was in an old black pot because she was a living Christmas tree. She tilted to one side and had a bunch of branches missing. She knew wasn’t very pretty, but she was still a Christmas tree, and a good Christmas tree at that. She felt so sad as she watched the lines of people who “ooed and ahhed” over all the other Christmas trees. One by one the tall, beautiful trees with their big price tags got picked up and carried away. But not her. No one “ooed and ahhed” over her. No one even looked at her price tag. No one wanted her.
And the cold, rainy season came and went, and then spring and summer came and went too. And when the cold, rainy season came back again, the Lopsided Little Christmas Tree still stood in her old black pot.
Christmas time came again, and a burly nursery man picked her up and put her in a row of Christmas trees, all with their price tags tied onto them. Some said $100, some said $75, some said $50, but hers said only $35. And that was fine. She felt so happy.
People came and looked her over, but still no one “ooed and ahhed.” They all passed her by. Christmas Eve was almost here and she knew her time was growing short. The other Christmas trees looked so smug as they got picked up and taken away. Finally, the burly nursery man came over and put a big red SALE sign on her. He slashed through the $35 and wrote down $15.
Now a Lady in a Purple Hat walked over to the Lopsided Little Christmas tree. She turned her around and looked at all her missing branches, and said, “Yes, this will do just fine.” And the Lady picked her up and brought the Lopsided Little Christmas tree home. Home to a tree lined street, not far from the La Brea Tar pits, where Saber Tooth Tigers used to roam.
When the Lady in the Purple Hat brought the Lopsided Little Christmas Tree inside the house, a Big Man took one look and said, “What a scrawny little tree. What are you going to do with that?”
“You just watch,” said the Lady in the Purple Hat. And she put the tree in a corner by a window and brought out a box of decorations. First a string of twinkling lights, then shiny colored balls, all reds and blues and greens, then lots of little figurines. Then the lady took a box of tensile and placed one strand at a time on the tree’s tiny branches. Then she hung red and white stripped candy canes all over, and finally she put a white angel at her top. The lady plugged in the lights, took a few steps back, looked at the Lopsided Little Christmas Tree and just smiled.
When the Big Man came into the room, his eyes opened wide and round. “Oh,” he said, “she’s so beautiful!” And so she was, even though she was still a little lopsided.
Then night after night, the nice couple would turn off all the lights, sit together on the couch and watch the tree’s twinkling, pretty lights. Sometimes the Big Man would lie on the couch and watch her all by himself. She knew he loved her. Everyone who walked through the front door “oooed” and “ahhed” over the little tree and she felt so happy. She’d found a home – a place to stay at last.
Then one day the Lady in the Purple Hat began to remove all the tensile and take off all the pretty, shiny colored balls. The Lopsided Little Tree got so scared. Where was the Big Man? She knew he really loved her. Where was he?
There he was! She felt him lift her up, and carry her outside — out to the front yard on the tree-lined street, not far from the La Brea tar pits, where Saber Tooth Tigers used to roam.
Then the Big Man started to dig a hole for her. He dug and dug and dug. But then he hit tar – hard, old, dried up tar. And he knew that if he planted the Lopsided Little Christmas Tree just then, her roots would hit that tar and she would surely starve. So he went to the garage and found a big, heavy pick-ax and he carried it out. He was a very strong man, and he heaved it high over his head and brought it down hard, again and again and again, until finally he cracked open the old, dried up tar. Then he dug and dug and dug some more. He worked all afternoon until the sun began to set. Then he planted the Lopsided Little Christmas Tree, and smiled at her. It didn’t matter to him that she was a little lopsided.
She stood only five feet high, but she felt so happy to be on the street of tall, older trees, where birds and squirrels could come to play in her branches.
The next Christmas, when it got rainy and cold, the Lady in the Purple Hat came outside and dressed her up again. She hung twinkling lights on her limbs, tied big red ribbons on her branches, and put the angel at her top. All the people who passed by on the street now stopped and “oooed and ahhed,” and the little tree felt so happy.
Years passed by and each year the little tree got taller. Finally, she noticed that the Lady in the Purple Hat couldn’t reach high enough to put her angel on top – not even with a ladder. The little tree looked around and realized she wasn’t a “little” tree any longer. She towered over all the roof tops now.
But she knew that the Big Man still loved her. For it seemed that all he did now was lie on the couch and look at her. And she would look back. And they loved each other.
Then one day the Big Man was gone and the Lady in the Purple Hat cried and cried and cried. It was Christmas time again, but the Lady didn’t string lights or tie bows on the Lopsided Little Christmas Tree. No one would lie on the couch any longer, just loving the little tree, and she felt so sad. Where is the Big Man? Where is he? She wondered.
Then one warm night in spring, when the birds had built their nests high the tree’s limbs, the Lady in the Purple Hat came outside. She carried a tiny box filled with pure white ashes – the Big Man’s ashes.
As the Lady in the Purple Hat knelt down to spread his ashes around the tree’s roots, the Lopsided Little Christmas tree felt so happy, “Here he is!” And she welcomed her old friend, her friend who had worked so hard to make sure that she would live. She felt so proud. And the Big Man smiled down from where he lives now, for he does still “live.” He is glad to be with the Lopsided Little Christmas tree and to hear the birds chirp as they feed their noisy babies in her thick branches.
So even though a huge shopping mall now covers the land where Mortigan’s nursery used to stand, the Lopsided Little Christmas Tree continues to grow tall on a tree- lined street, not far from the La Brea tar pits, where Saber Tooth Tigers used to roam.