The Perfect 2020 Tree

“That’s the saddest tree ever,” my 9-year-old son commented at dinner.

“No it’s not, it’s perfect,” my husband replied.

I turned around to look at the Christmas tree that, for me, has come to symbolize this crazy year. It all started at the beginning of the month, when I decided that the best way to get a Christmas tree in a pandemic would be to cut one down in the national forest. The part of the forest we found ourselves in was full of trees, but not the kind that look like Christmas trees. We ended up with a little hemlock pine that the kids deemed “perfect!” It was about the same height as we usually get, but with long, thin branches that I knew would only support the lightest ornaments. It wasn’t the tree I had pictured us finding, but since the kids loved it, so did I.

When we decorated it the next day, the sparse branches held only a fraction of our usual decorations. The top was even flimsier than the branches. No matter how many ways I tried, the star would not stay upright. We decided a leaning star was okay this year. When we plugged in the lights and stepped back, the sight was not our typical Christmas tree, but it was sparkly and festive and we decided it was perfect for this year.

Two weeks later, the needles started to drop at an alarming rate. Despite cutting several inches off the bottom when we arrived home, it never drank water, and the branches were completely dry. I was seriously worried that there wouldn’t be any needles left by Christmas! I didn’t have to worry for long. Half the needles fell off when a stuffed animal went flying into the tree. Later, an angry family member pulled on a branch and sent a green blizzard falling to the ground. I considered going to buy a new tree, but the kids wanted to keep this one. So we stuck with it, and opened our presents under its bare branches on Christmas morning, as joyful as ever, despite the less-than-perfect backdrop. Sort of like life has been in 2020.

I turned back to my son and smiled. “Daddy’s right, it’s the perfect pandemic Christmas tree! But we’ll take it down tomorrow.”