Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Christmas Tree

"See that star, Anna, there at the very top?" he said. "It's there to remind us of the beauty, even when all we feel is the hardness." The Christmas Tree by Julie Salamon (page 116)

I never thought I'd be one of those people who could grow attached to a tree...but lo, I have joined the ranks. A mighty oak tree, one that started as a twin oak and grew, over the years, into a quintuple oak, was trimmed and pruned for decades. But of late, the tree had grown quite unwieldy and so many colossal acorns were shed each fall it was as though a rather intense drummer had practiced his paradiddles on the roof, the trunk, and the hood of any poor car parked beneath its enormity.

After much deliberation, the towering tree, which served as a landmark to family history, was finally removed a few weeks ago. With its dismantling, memories from a family that grew up and grew old, and moved on, from beneath the fixed, forever-growing umbrella of shade the tree offered for almost 50 years, evoked a palpable sense of loss, remembrance and nostalgia...

All of this got me thinking of a great little book, now a classic, about trees and the deep-rooted emotional meanings they can hold in our lives.

THE CHRISTMAS TREE by Julie Salamon (illustrated by Jill Weber) is a beautiful, compact story that's very appropriate to be read at this time of the year.

It is a tale narrated by the chief gardener from Rockefeller Center in New York City and his quest to acquire an admirable and immense Norway Spruce from a convent in New Jersey. The book tells the story of Sister Anthony, an elderly nun at the Mother House, who refuses to accommodate the gardener's agenda to cut the tree down.  During the process of many years of annual negotiations, Sister Anthony ultimately shares her story about how, when she was a shy, orphan girl named Anna, she was sent from New York City to live at the convent. Once there, she felt incredibly lonely, but she befriended a tiny fir tree whom she came to call, "Tree." Anna and Tree grew up together and it was through their life-long union that Anna came to love and appreciate the wonders of nature - a breadth of knowledge she generously passes on to the next generation.
One winter, when a harsh storm threatens Tree's safety, Sister Anthony begins to have second thoughts about the tree becoming the crown jewel of the Rockefeller Center Christmas display.  

This is a sensitive, simply told and moving story, a perfect December read about growth, memory, love and letting go. You'll never look at a tree, or Rockefeller Center at Christmas-time, the same way...Trust me, I know.

The Christmas Tree by Julie Salamon; Jill Weber (Illustrator)
(Random House, Paperback, 9780375761089, 128pp.)
Publication Date: October 29, 2002
To purchase this book via INDIEBOUND click HERE