I can still remember how magical it was the first time I rounded the bend at sunset and saw it dancing in the setting sun.

Tucker my beagle had yanked me off our normal path through what I had long ago dubbed my trees, not caring enough to look up the actual name of the small wooded area almost exactly one mile east of our farm, following his busy nose onto a much less well trodden path. However, being 13 and ripe for adventure I let him pick.  We must have wandered on that path for over 20 minutes before the trees started to thin, and thinking we had hit the other side we both started to run for the dappled light only to find ourselves instead in a small clearing.

In those first few moments I didn’t wonder who had done it or why I just accepted it at face value.  Here in the middle of my trees stood a smallish fir-tree trimmed for tomorrow’s celebration of Christmas.  The whines and snuffs of Tuck’s detective work didn’t even break the spell. It was as if I had never laid eyes on a live Christmas tree before.  I marveled at the simple glass ornaments, the silver tinsel garland, and the golden star on top until the sun set behind the trees effectively dimming the dazzling reflective light that had made the tree appear to be covered in twinkle lights as well.

I never mentioned the Christmas tree to anyone, enjoying the secret my trees had shared with me that day and perhaps sensing that I had intruded on something private.  However, that couldn’t stop me from returning each day of Winter break to see it again.

It became my Christmas tradition.  Every year I would visit the clearing in my trees from the first day of school break till the last trying to catch the miracle maker either putting everything up or taking it all back down. I never did. Like clockwork the tree would sparkle from Christmas eve till the 31st, that is, until my freshmen year of college.

I was just about to the clearing and was untroubled by the lack of silver and gold flashes, as the sun hadn’t even started setting, but then I stood face to face with that fir-tree.  It looked so small in the clearing, though I could tell it was very old by the size of the trunk, but without the trimmings everything just looked off.  I stood there clutching the nearest tree for support the questions I had never thought to ask rising to the surface; who had done this for so many years, what had it meant to them, did they know what it meant to me, why would it have stopped?  The final question ringing in my ears I ran from my trees and their clearing, distraught at the loss of my tradition, until I found myself at our storage barn.

While I hadn’t planned it, it felt right.  “There,” I whispered to the smallish fir knocking pine needles from my coat, “that’s better I think.”  As I walked away I glanced over my shoulder so my ornaments were plastic, my garland was rainbow colors not silver, and an angel sat where the star had been the idea behind the tradition might not care about those little details.  I would come back tomorrow and see if the tree could still dance in the fading light.

When I returned I found that my tree trimming had worked. The clearing again seemed full and alive, but I was unprepared for the note inscribed at the base of the tree in the earth which read simply

Thank you.

Unsure but excited I stooped to leave my own message

Thank you…

But that was years ago, and now I stand looking at the clearing in my trees and see the fir festooned with glitter snowflakes and icicles and topped with a silver star preparing to leave my second message, and while I write I smile and remember the magic of when I first rounded that bend.


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