It was December 2006. And there was so much sorrow in my heart.
My marriage was officially over. I had held on by a thread but finally let go. I was alone — again. But this time it was really quiet — no kids, no distractions. Just me.
On an even sadder note, Mama was sick and I knew she was not long for this world. Her mind was gone. In reality I had already buried her.
And last but not least, a pain buried deep inside my soul for over five decades had reared its ugly head — forcing me to look it in the eye and face the hurt and the anger.
But Christmas was nigh. I had to get it together. I had to look for something new to take my mind off the past. I had to face the fact that the present was not what I had envisioned. But I refused to let go of the faith that the future would get better.
And there was one thing I knew I could not do. I could not go out on the farm, find that perfect tree, cut it down, and haul it back to the house. That was a group thing — or at least a duet. Christmas tree hunting and cutting alone is as depressing as going to a New Year’s Eve Party solo.
I had to come up with something that was my own. I had to make this the Christmas of making a new beginning — not the Christmas of remembering a bad ending.
A call to my horticultural wizard friend Helen put me on the right path. She suggested I come to the nursery and check out a cryptomeria.
As soon as I saw the small Japanese cedar, I knew it was the perfect tree. Not too tall — but big enough to be a Christmas tree.
“How long can I keep her in this pot on the patio?” I asked Helen.
“As long as you keep her watered…a good while for sure…maybe a year or so,” she said.
“Perfect. Can you have your guys deliver it to me? And I’ll take one of those large pots and trays, too.”
“I’ll have it there tomorrow,” she said.
I admit I was nervous about this entire process. In my mind, this was a really big deal. I had made changes in my life and said to the world, “I don’t care what your ‘standard’ is. I am not going to settle. I am not going to compromise and I am not going to be dishonest about how I feel. I may be doing this alone, but damn it, I’m going to do it.”
So figuring out how to address the Christmas tree issue was huge. I had to prove — not to the world but to myself — that I could manage my life — alone.
Helen’s crew delivered the tree. We moved her inside and put her in the large terracotta pot. That evening she put on her lights and the hummingbird and butterfly ornaments I bought just for the new evergreen.
I looked at my “first” tree. She was lovely.
And here she is today.
Standing almost 30 feet high in my backyard. She has had two more sisters planted on the property and a third is in the living room, waiting to be dressed.
She is the first thing I see each morning when I go outside. Standing there watching the sun come up over the mountain. Telling me that if you find your faith, you will find your strength. Assuring me that everything is going to be okay. Agreeing with me that love trumps it all.
If I could have one Christmas wish this year, it would be that folks who are hurting could find their perfect cryptomeria — something new to hold onto…something that will make it all better.