The Christmas tree farm was sectioned off by parcels of land, each a small orchard of evergreens and each row lined by trees in a different and distinct stage of growth. Up front, by the gate, tiny "Charlie Brown" trees standing as tall as a grade-school ruler poked up from dirt mounds like arrows that had fallen from the sky and pierced the earth.
Around the bend, a patch of stumps jutted up in rows, evidence of the families that had walked these fields before us. Only a handful of ready-to-cut size trees were left scattered about them. Another large orchard of tiny pine twigs jutted up about hip high sparking the hope of Christmases yet to come.
Walking along a dirt path from the parking lot to framer's barn, our little tree hunting group found a last stand of trees, most of which were much too big for our small home. Many of these grand trees were cracked and bent. A mild ice storm just a few days earlier had pulled the heavy pine branches over and their tips touched the ground.
Asking for instructions from the farmer, the six of us there to do the chore, took our saw and headed to the field of stumps, anticipating the discovery of our perfect tree.
“I liked the ones in the front,” our then teenaged son called out as he danced merrily among a field of "Charlie Browns," singing "Oh, Christmas Tree" with childlike abandon.
“That’s what I was thinking when we drove in,” Dad grinned, his eyes twinkling with the reply. “We could pay for one of those today and come back in about five years to cut it down!”
Reality drew us to an orchard full of six to eight footers. Although we had row upon row of trees to explore, we all converged on one particular tree. It had a nice shape, and stood straight at about five feet tall. Gentle tufts of green needles hung down from the center of the conifer that was topped by a single branch, no more than a wisp of pine needles, that scooped down in the front like the tip of a styled bang of hair. Three-fourths of the tree was perfectly rounded leaving only the back quarter a little flattened out.
“Don’t forget, this year, it will need to fit next to the fireplace,” I reminded the group and, continuing my notorious habit of putting a positive spin on things, I motioned up and down the back of the tree and added, “No one will even notice this flat part.”
“Only Santa,” our teenage daughter, who had only recently become a licensened driver, pondered, “It’s O.K. cause he’s leavin’ me a car parked out in the driveway… so, it’s all good!”
A decision to investigate all of our options was reached so we traipsed around every shape and size of tree, up and down each row of dirt, until we wound up back to where we had begun.
We put our saw to the first tree we’d seen, and took turns cutting the slender trunk. Triumphant high fives circled the group and we loaded our harvest into a canvas cart and "rickshawed" our way back to pay for our bounty, sip hot cider and head for home… while visions of decorating danced in our heads.
It struck me later, while sipping something hot and giving myself a quiet moment to look at the twinkling symbol of the season as it stood in all its glory in our living room, how many in life times I go "round and round, "just as we had done that day at the tree farm. I was time and effort looking for the "perfect" this or the "most special" that, then coming back, full circle to the place I started.
I believe I was created in a wonderful heaven to which I will, at a time of God’s choosing, someday return. So, whether I feel like a young twig, a prime cut tree, or a storm ravaged pine, broken and bent, I know my soul remains evergreen.
Editor's note: Sally Toole, who runs History Walks of Norcross, usually writes the Patch column Historic Norcross, which includes stories of this historic town, sometimes with creepy conclusions.