Speaking of family traditions, Whit has begun his own. For the third year in a row he has tried to make the tree hunting process as difficult and un-enjoyable as possible. The first time, when he was just 18 months old, he ran from one end of the tree farm to the other, on a mission. Come to find out there was a play set over the fence that he couldn't play on. Cue tears. Last year the frigid weather had him curled as tightly to his Nana as possible while Kirk, Eilidh and I found, posed with and cut down a tree. This year, although the best to date, he firmly planted himself in his seat and stated "I'll just wait for you here in the truck while you go and cut down the tree." Ah... perhaps in ten years he will realize how fun it is to bundle up and traipse among evergreen trees for hours in search of PERFECTION?
Now, everyone has their own idea of a perfect tree. My mother would settle for nothing but a Blue Spruce. My sister prefers short, squat trees that need a little love and I would always pull my father's hand in the direction of the tallest most evenly balanced tree I could find. You can imagine that deciding on a tree in that family really did take hours with my peace-making brother saying "Can't we just get this one?" at least a dozen times.
This year I had to contend with one grump who wanted a blue tree, a toddler who just wanted all of the trees and a husband who wanted to get the process over as quickly as possible since we had just spent a good five minutes convincing Whit to just leave the truck.
But, in the end, we found the "perfect" tree. Just like we do every year. It was Glorious. Full branches, a beautiful texture and color, just the right height and fatness. And was it ever balanced and even had a hint of blue in the green branches.
But, just like every other year, as we cut this perfect tree from the ground, dragged it home, trimmed and placed it in the tree stand we realized just how perfect it wasn't. Suddenly all I could see was that the tree was leaning to one side. We had to catch the thing three times as it fell, unbalanced from the tree stand. As the branches settled after cutting the bright blue twine away I noticed that several stuck out at odd angles and there were far more bare spots than I had remembered from just an hour before.
So there we were, with a gloriously imperfect tree. As we breathed deep calming breaths and discussed our ignorance and poor choosing I looked Kirk in the eye and said "At least there's a good blog post in this." Because there is.
This tree is a metaphor for our lives. Everyone has a different idea of perfect. And when we look at our own or others' lives for just a brief moment it's easy to see the vision of perfection. It's only when we get the tree home and really look at the details that we realize there is nothing at all perfect about it. There are bare spots. There are parts of our lives that don't fit neatly together, that stick out at us every time we look in the mirror. You never know when that perfectly balanced tree is actually going to turn out to have a twisted trunk because it has grown on a hill or had branches cut and shaped to appear that way.
And when you realize your tree isn't perfect you have two choices. You can toss it in the burn pile and go with an artificial, always perfect tree or you can decorate what you have. You can place ornaments like memories on the branches not to disguise but to accentuate the imperfections. You can find the perfect bare spot for your ballerina ornament and happily place your childhood Rudolf on the top because the type of tree you have is too bendy for the ornate star topper. You can turn the tree, just so, to find the side that is the most "normal" to show to the world and then sit back on the couch and see the tree leaning toward the wall and knowing that it's only the tight screws at the very base of the tree that is keeping everything from falling apart.