The ugliest Christmas tree

‘Tis the season for cutting Christmas trees on the Reese family farm.

We work very hard on our farm to grow nice looking Christmas trees, but anyone who has searched for the perfect tree knows that not all trees are created equal.

I spend many hours this time of year with families carefully pondering their perfect Christmas tree choice, strolling through the rows of manicured trees on the farm. I see families who let the youngest pick out the tree; for many families mom has 51% of the vote; other families alternate from year to year who picks the tree. None of those perfect trees are really perfect, but they are perfect for the families that pick them (unless they get one that is too big for the room). In the end, the decorated trees are all beautiful not because they are decorated perfectly, but because of the process of the decorating, the people who participated and the home in which it resides. In short, they all look beautiful when you decorate them no matter what they look like in the field.

Nonetheless, we never fail to have some customers who painstakingly study every aspect of the tree. Some even get frustrated because they can’t find a tree with the exact specifications they’d hoped for. To those folks that come to me and ask for my help in finding the perfect tree, I tell this story.

It was last year in early December and it was a fairly pleasant and very busy Saturday on the tree farm. A mother and her two teenage children (a son and a daughter) crossed the bridge spanning a creek on the farm and walked straight over to me.

“We want the ugliest tree we can find.”

“How ugly?” I asked.

“We want the ugliest tree on the farm.”

“OK, follow me.”

I walked them over to a couple of firs growing by the woods that had suffered from years of deer browsing and buck rubs. The tree had several sizeable holes in an otherwise lopsided and sparsely limbed form.

“Nope, not ugly enough,” said the daughter who had been doing the talking.

I cocked an eyebrow and reassessed the tree. It was quite offensive, but apparently not disagreeable enough. I walked on.

“Well how about this?” I asked pointing to a spruce that had the top knocked out of it in a tree-digging project gone bad.

The tree looked like a bush, with a few broken limbs here and there to add to its unsightly appearance.

“No, not that one either. You must have something uglier than that?”

After some more thinking, I came up with a solution — the Austrian pines! I walked them over to the back corner of the farm where we have a stand of unshorn, wild-looking Austrian pines we planted as a field border and windbreak. I pointed to the looming, lanky, awkward trees with my tree saw.

“What do you think?”

The girl’s crooked grin gave me her answer.

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We chopped off the top of the sprawling, awkward pine. There was no doubt that it was ugly. I firmly believe that even the ugliest tree can look good when decorated well, but I was even skeptical with this one. It was pretty horrid looking. The girl, though, sent me some before and after photo proof that even the ugliest tree looks beautiful with the right vision.

In the end, it really has very little to do with the placement of the branches, the unsightly holes (or lack of), or the shape. It is the love, care, hope, and faith of the season that make it beautiful. Those qualities can turn the worst situations into something wonderful, even the ugliest Christmas tree.

 

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