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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

In Other Words: This Christmas Tree Gives All Year Long

We bought a live Christmas tree the first year in our house. It was a white pine and it probably wasn’t the best choice for a Christmas tree but it had the root ball and we were young and naive and we wanted to plant a tree to commemorate the event. Both of our families had planted trees for special occasions and we wanted to continue the tradition.

So I dug a hole in the back yard in mid-December, brought the dirt into the basement to keep the soil from freezing. In January I hauled the dirt back into the yard along with a six foot live white pine. I wrestled the root ball into the hole and covered it with the warm soil, watered it, and walked away. Years later a few surrounding taller trees died and the canopy opened up and that tree shot up. It got bigger than I ever expected.

To be honest, I probably planted it in a bad spot - a bit too close to the property line, you know. But it is a happy tree away from overhead wires and underground pipes. Today birds and squirrels nest in it. The deer sleep under it.  Its fragrance perfumes the yard. It provides privacy. And it’s a reminder of our roots in this place.

Now it’s at least sixty feel tall and it is not even the oldest tree in our little yard.  We have similar stories for every tree in the yard - and there are a dozen of them. It’s a yard full of family stories and we are reminded of those stories every time we look at or touch them.

You see, we impose meaning on physical objects that other people do not see or understand. We often mark a memory, an event, an emotion with an object. That thing may not mean much of anything to anyone else except us. Like the waxy magnolia planted in the side yard that was a mother’s day gift. Or the cherry tree seeds that blew in from the neighbor’s yard and took root. Same for a couple of maples. The hackberry tree is the property marker. Those trees are used throughout Fort Thomas as property markers especially on older properties that were part of larger farms. The tulip poplar was a gift. The redbuds are the newest and sweetest because they are delicate looking yet surprisingly hardy. A fine metaphor.

We give gifts. We receive gifts. And many end up returned, seldom used, re-homed or repurposed, but some special ones continue to hold meaning - a certain cutting board, a piece of pottery, a quilt, a piece of jewelry, or even a few baskets overflowing with cards from cancer treatments. It’s a tangible reminder of person, emotion, and time. It anchors us and we find meaning in it. Our homes are full of such objects.

I’m not sure what gifts we gave that first year but I am reminded of that year every day when I see that amazing tree in the yard.

I don’t want or need anything for Christmas. I have everything I need. A warm loving home, caring friends, a supportive community, and a tree to remind me that in order to grow up we must grow roots.

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