California Christmas TreeI’ve had some fun growing a few trees in my life. I’ve tried my hand at an avocado tree, a “money” tree, a banana tree, and even a mamey tree. The avocado tree, which I started from an avocado pit, is still going strong and is around 4 feet tall. The money tree was given to me as a gift. It has a braided trunk and came with the message that it would bring me money. Within a week of receiving it, I had gotten a tiny tax refund from my summer job. While that sounds promising, that was the end of it. No more money materialized. The banana tree is a miniature version, grown indoors, and is two years old now. Supposedly, it will eventually bear edible bananas. That remains to be seen. The mamey tree, when grown outdoors, is a huge tropical tree that bears a very tasty fruit. I grew mine in a pot from the pit of a mamey fruit. When it got a bit too large, I donated it to the science teacher at my school. All these trees are unique and interesting and fun to grow, but my favorite tree is the tree that was my Christmas tree this past year.
In November, my parents sent me to Marina del Rey, California to visit my sister for a few weeks. I was going to school remotely so they thought this might be a good opportunity. No sooner had I arrived than the COVID situation worsened and I was stuck in California. Thanksgiving came and went and Christmas was approaching. My sister’s house was tiny. There wasn’t a spare inch for a Christmas tree. We solved the problem by being innovative. We decided to get a “California Christmas tree.” We had to visit three nurseries, but we finally found what we were looking for - a palm tree that didn’t take up too much space. We decorated it with lights, both colored and white, and we hung an ornament on top. There wasn’t space for much more.
As Christmas came nearer, I found my eyes would be drawn to the tree. Tradition has always been important to me and one of the things I love every year is the lights on a beautiful Christmas tree. This tree was different, however. It had lights but only a solitary ornament - a red ball - on the top which reminded me of a Grinch tree as well as a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. As the days passed, the tree grew on me. I tried to decide if it made me happy or a little melancholy. I knew a palm branch often stood for peace or victory. After the turmoil of 2020 and knowing that I was stuck in California until COVID was more under control, peace was something I really needed. I wouldn’t mind a little victory over the virus either.
Christmas arrived. My sister had made a program of the day's events for the family. From all across the country - California, Texas, and Vermont - we had a Zoom call that lasted hours all while we were gathered around our Christmas palm tree. We had poems, stories, and songs, ate meals and opened gifts, all around our tree. By the time the day was done, we had had every bit as special a Christmas as if we had all been together - and our palm tree was a big part of it. Everyone loved it.
Now, our palm tree has become a cherished memory of a wonderful Christmas season. Although the lights and the solitary ornament have been removed, the tree still thrives. It now lives outside the front door of my sister’s house where it can get plenty of light and water. It has been repotted in a bigger pot so it can flourish. It looks healthy and vibrant. Maybe it somehow knows how special it made my family’s Christmas season in a year when we had to be apart.