Many of you may not know that I’m adopted. More than three decades ago, just before Christmas, my mother brought me into her home–my home–for the first time. Though she couldn’t possibly have known what she was getting into, she and my father and sister welcomed me with love and always made me feel as much a part of the family as though I had been born into it. This story is for my mother, who helped me decorate my very first Christmas tree since I left home, and who was worried that it was too small.
THE SMALLEST CHRISTMAS TREE
The Christmas tree was very small. It was the smallest Christmas tree in the forest. “Hmm,” said its father. “Oh, dear,” sighed its mother. Its brothers and sisters looked down at it and giggled.
At Christmas tree school, the other trees in the class won prizes: “Best in Ornaments,” “First in Candy Canes,” “Biggest Star.” But the smallest Christmas tree didn’t win any prizes.
The teacher looked at the smallest Christmas tree and shook its head. “People want big trees, trees they can hang a hundred ornaments on. There may not be a place for you.”
The smallest Christmas tree drooped its branches all the way home. That night, it dreamed of a warm, welcoming house filled with firelight and purring cats. It dreamed of hot chocolate, Christmas carols, and falling snow. It dreamed of being covered in a hundred ornaments and crowned with a big, bright star.
Every day, the smallest Christmas tree looked for a home that wanted a tree. Every day, it heard the same thing: homes these days want bigger trees. You can’t hold all the ornaments. You can’t cover all the presents. You can’t hold up the star.
Christmas got closer and closer. The wind became sharper and colder. It rushed through the branches of the smallest Christmas tree. The tree shivered and pulled its boughs tight against its trunk. For the first time, it began to wonder if it would ever find a Christmas home.
Then, it saw a tiny sign in the corner of a store window: “Christmas tree wanted. Fireplace with cats. No tree too small.” The ad looked old. It looked like it had been in the window for a long time. But it was Christmas Eve, and the smallest Christmas tree decided to try.
The house didn’t look like much from the outside. It was the smallest house on the street. It was all the way at the end of the street, so the smallest Christmas tree had to walk past window after decorated window, each showing a tall and brightly-lit Christmas tree. The smallest tree stopped just outside the front door of the smallest house, tired and cold and almost ready to give up.
Then the door opened. Warm light fell on the smallest Christmas tree. The tree looked into the beautiful, smiling face of a small young woman. Cats purred at her feet and firelight flickered in the background. Behind the woman was a space near the fire just big enough for a very small Christmas tree.
The woman welcomed the smallest Christmas tree into her home. Christmas carols played softly around the tree as it settled gratefully beside the fireplace. The wind outside blew fierce and cold against the windows, but the smallest Christmas tree was warm inside the smallest house. The space beside the fire was just the right size.
The woman brought out all the ornaments she had been saving until she finally found a tree. There were over a hundred ornaments. Each one had been given to the woman by someone she loved. Each one had a story with it. The woman told each story to the smallest Christmas tree as she decorated it.
The woman decorated the smallest Christmas tree for hours. She sang carols as she wound garlands through the tree’s branches. She smiled as she hung it with candy canes. She covered the bottom of the Christmas tree with a shimmering blanket, and she hung ornaments on every branch, all the way up to the top. The smallest Christmas tree held very still as the pile of ornaments grew smaller, wondering how all of the ornaments could possibly fit.
But they did fit–every one.
Last of all, gently and carefully, the woman placed a glittering star on top of the very highest branch. Covered in ornaments and surrounded by firelight and music, the smallest Christmas tree had found its home.
The next morning, the smallest Christmas tree looked out of the windows of the smallest house. Nearby, the woman cradled a cup of hot chocolate beside the fire. Beneath the tree’s branches, cats purred and prowled on the shimmering blanket. Snow was falling soft and white outside the windows. In its new home, the smallest Christmas tree heard the glad ringing of bells and knew that it was Christmas day.
Merry Christmas, everyone! May every wandering soul find a home like mine.