The Last Tree Standing
Buy me! Buy me!But no one has.
I am a ten year old Douglas fir tree, born and raised on the slopes of northern Maine. Born and bred to be a Christmas tree! I am deep blue green, glossy, tall and straight. In October I was chopped from my roots and bundled onto a truck with all my friends and family. We were going to New York.
It was frigid when I was unloaded on the Friday after Thanksgiving. I ended up at the back of the lot, encased in ice and snow. But still I stood tall and each day as the people came to shop I yelled silently: Choose me! Choose me!
Weeks passed.Now it is the day before Christmas. I can tell because the solstice has come and gone. Almost all the other trees have left, to become glorious, beloved Christmas trees. But not me.
I am very sad.
Each day a certain young woman walks by the firehouse where the tree lot is. She smiles and waves at the firemen, but she never buys a tree. She is always alone, but she smiles, wrapped in her bright red scarf and wooly mittens. Tonight is my last chance and as I see her approaching I yearn: choose me! choose me! I am lonely too!Perhaps she somehow hears me because she stops for a moment and surveys the almost empty tree lot.
A handsome young volunteer fireman approaches. "Can I sell you a tree, lady?""Oh no. No, my cottage is so small...." She laughs, shrugs. "Uh. What happens to the trees that aren't sold?"
"Most of them are donated to local hospitals and elder care centers. We'll take the unsold trees tonight, use donated ornaments. It's pretty nice, the folks seems so pleased."''Oh that is nice!''
''Yeah and the rest---well, we use them out on the beach."''Oh? On the beach?"
''Yep, we truck them out to the dunes for sand conservation."
The fireman laughs. ''You won't think it's sad next summer when the beach is huge and wide, not washed away."
She smiles again. "You're so right! Well...merry Christmas!"
''Yeah, lady, you too.''
I watch her walk away.
I wasn't loaded on the truck that night, to go to the hospice or the children's ward. I stood there alone as Christmas passed. One day I was tossed into a bright yellow pickup truck marked Lifeguards. A few wreaths and other homeless trees were thrown on top of me. We were taken to the windy cold sandy place, the beach. And I was left alone, just me and some fencing, a few beer cans and an old trash bag. Sand blew, icy water swamped me at times. My beautiful blue green needles fell off. I shivered and cried. Oddly enough after a few weeks other trucks came and dropped off more pine trees, some with bits of tinsel or a random bauble attached.Christmas trees end up here too, I guess.
Time passed, I grew spindly and sere. A big wind came one moonless night and threw me upright again; I stood tall by the old wire and slat fence.
More time passed. It got warm. People walked by every day. No one looked at me though---why would they? I wasn't even a former Christmas tree. I was just a skeleton, now part of the white sand dunes they loved but took for granted.And then she appeared. The woman with the red scarf. Now, in July she wore shorts and flipflops, but I knew her. She walked by each evening and I'd smile and say Hello, in silence. One pink-streaked evening magic perhaps happened and she heard my voice. That day she stopped and looked, really looked at me. She smiled her sweet sad smile. And she walked over to me. After a moment she rummaged in her pockets, came up with something. And on my branches she carefully hung a pink and white whelk shell, an old red striped fishing bobber, and a clamshell tied with yellow rope.
......All summer on her way home from her long solitary beach walks, the woman would stop. And each day she'd add a find or two to my branches. A red plastic pail, a pink sand mold, a blue starfish, a lot of those darn clams. After awhile other folks took notice and added their versions of ornaments too. I liked the blue wine bottle, and the bits of aqua seaglass. Not so much the beer cans and grocery bags...but who am I to complain. I was a Christmas Tree now.
The weather cooled, the people left me alone again. The woman came less often. She always stopped to smile at me though. By now I loved her. She had made me whole.When the solstice came again, I stood tall if barren. The woman came one afternoon when night fell so early. On my branches she carefully strung some strange green wires. Then she attached something---and I lit up!
"Batteries, Mr. Tree! They'll only last a few nights. But they are so pretty! Look at you, now you're perfect! Merry Christmas.'' And she took my picture and disappeared into the night.Yes. I loved her.
A jet plane landing at JFK Airport. The copilot leaned over and stared down at the dark expanse he knew was the shoreline of America. "Look," he told the pilot."A Christmas tree! On the beach!''The guys in the Public Safety Jeep---they saw me too. And the local fisherman who ply the icy waters here. Even the big tanker ships far out to sea---they could all see me.
I'm a Christmas tree.