Many years ago, there was a forest in upstate Maine, where families from bordering states would go into the forest every December to cut down the family Christmas tree. It was a tradition.
This is the story of a tiny evergreen tree that wished for years to be in the home of children. It wanted to be decorated with ornaments and lights, hear the laughter of children, and the voices of angels singing Christmas carols. It wanted to be inside a home where it was warm—but most of all, it wanted to be loved. This little tree thought that the only way for that to happen was to be someone’s Christmas tree. The little tree had a vision for many years But, one day his dream nearly came true, and it was not what he thought it to be. This is that little tree’s story.
Little Joey lived in a big house just on the edge of Fir Tree Forest. Joey loved the forest, and went there often in every season—especially during the winter months. Joey was a nature lover, and he talked to the forest creatures—even to the trees. When Joey visited the forest in December, he was always very sad. It seemed as though little Joey was carrying the weight of the world on his frail shoulders. The trees would bend and whisper to each other, and they wished they knew what made an otherwise happy little boy very sad when the snow visited the forest.
One day, when Joey was about nine years old, he spotted a tiny fir tree and stopped to look at it. It was pretty scrawny, and its boughs were not as straight as they could be, but to Joey, it was a wonderful little tree.
“Good afternoon, little tree … I’m Joey.” The little tree thought the little boy to be very strange, and decided to just ignore him—but that was easier said then done. The little tree listened intently when he heard Joey speak of the most beautiful trees in the forest that would one day be somebody’s Christmas tree. The little tree was very excited, and was hoping the little boy would give some kind of clue or hope as to when it would be someone’s Christmas tree too. Instead, the little boy described pain and suffering as the tree’s life liquid would slowly seep from its cuttings, until it was completely spent. The needles on its boughs, once green and flexible, would become dry, brittle, and sharp. Its boughs that were strong and facing upward when in the forest, would become weakened and droop. The decorations and lights that once adorned it would be stripped until the tree was completely naked, then tossed out in the cold where it lay shivering , dehydrated, and dying.
The little tree was horrified—and wasn’t sure what to believe. All the trees, well most of them anyway, would talk about leaving the forest to become a Christmas tree. They always spoke of this as an honor, and lived for the day for it to become a reality. How could this wretched little boy come into the forest with such frightening tales about suffering and dying? The little tree decided he didn’t like Joey, and he wanted him to go away. He had always been a happy little tree with big dreams about being some family’s Christmas tree, and here comes this evil little boy sputtering lies, and horrors, and even death!
“Go away, little boy. Go away!” The little tree’s voice sounded very small in that great big forest, but he didn’t care—he wanted the little boy to leave. It was times like these that the little tree wished it was seven feet tall rather then the three feet that it really was.
“Please little tree, I want to save you. Don’t you understand? You must listen to me, so that you will grow to thirty or maybe fifty feet tall. To be a Christmas tree is to die. Once you are chopped down and leave the forest, you will never return, except in spirit. Is this what you truly want?” The little tree saw water fall from Joey’s eyes, and run down both sides of his face. He wasn’t sure what it was, but he was smart enough to know the little boy seemed to be sadder then he had ever seen him before.
“Go away little boy! I am only three feet tall, and nobody wants me. It will be years before I grow tall and strong and somebody will want me for their Christmas tree. Now, please, go away. You are scaring my brothers, and sisters, and even my elders.” The little tree tried to speak in a firm voice, but he knew he was squeaking and quivering. No matter, the little boy turned and walked away towards the edge of the forest, and finally disappeared. For a long time, the little tree listened to his brothers, and sisters, and more importantly, his elders, as they talked about what the little boy had to say. It was unanimous that the little tree should always keep his dream of someday becoming a Christmas tree. The horrible story the little boy told was nothing but lies, and the tree should forget those words the little boy used to frighten him.
One day, in late spring, Joey returned to the forest.
“Good morning, little tree. Joey here. Do you remember me?” The little tree cringed in fear, as he certainly did remember that horrible little boy. But, he refused to answer.
“It’s a beautiful day to be in the forest,” said Joey, “so I thought I would come by to say hello. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll sit under this beautiful tree beside you for a while, and just listen to the birds, and the whispers of the elders.”
“You can hear the elders whisper?” asked the little tree.
“Why yes, of course,” said Joey. “Why wouldn’t I hear them whisper?” The little tree decided not to speak to Joey. He didn’t understand him, and he thought he was scared of Joey. This was the first human to ever come into the forest to talk to the trees, and then admit to hearing the elders whispering. Besides which, he had a very sharp memory, and he would never forget that frightening story that this little boy told him during the season of the snows.
That lovely spring day was several years ago. Joey still came to the forest many times during all the seasons, and he and the little tree had grown to be the best of friends. The little tree remembered the time that Joey had treated a broken bough from the antlers of a buck, and another time when Joey would give the little tree reports on the pair of cardinals that decided to nest in his boughs and raise a family. Joey had shot up over the years to nearly six feet tall, but the little tree smiled, thinking how there once was a time he was shorter than Joey—now he was nearly nine feet tall.
The little tree also remembered the morning that he and the elders suffered, during the last snow season, when men came into the forest and chopped down a sister tree just a few feet away. This was the first time that this group of trees ever witnessed a member being cut and removed from the forest to be a Christmas tree. Her screams of pain were unbearable as they echoed through the forest. The young tree could see her life liquid flowing from her cutting, and he and all the trees around her began to wail and grieve for her.
This movement among the trees is believed to be the wind, but it’s not. When the trees become agitated, or frightened, they move their boughs back and forth, trying to ease their stresses. It was this day, that the young tree remembered from years back, the frightening story that his friend had told him. He now knew that Joey was telling the truth those many years ago. Though Joey never spoke of this ever again, the young tree watched and waited as it grew to be a strong and impressive tree. He was anxious to grow up and spread his strong, massive boughs, while attempting to reach up toward the heavens. But he was also frightened when he heard the voices of men in the depths of the forest, especially when the snows covered the ground. He knew why they were there, and he also knew that when a tree left the forest, it never came back. He watched a sister tree leave the forest last snow season, and she never returned. He also watched the stump where her trunk used to be slowly die, and had since begun to rot. Yes, he now believed Joey. Now, when the snows were deep on the grounds of the forest, the young tree was frightened, and feared for his life.
About twelve years had passed, and the young tree was strong, mighty, impressive, and simply beautiful. He was full of life, and the sister and brother trees around him had all survived these many years, along with the elders. He was grateful for this, because it was the dedication and caring of a young man named Joey that had made it all possible. The young tree didn’t know all the details, except that Joey and many of the town’s folk got together with a petition of some kind. They wanted 300 acres of the forest to be protected—meaning that none of the trees on those 300 acres could be harvested for Christmas trees, or anything else. There was even a team of doctors who came out every couple of years to inspect the trees, and even treat the ones that appeared diseased. The tree, now an adult, doesn’t see his friend very much these days—but when he does, it’s a big celebration. Joey brings along his wife, Susan, and their son, little Joey. All the trees whisper to Joey and his family—and of course, they talk back. Even little Joey!
Life in the Fir Tree Forest is good. None of the fears that plagued the tree when he was little exist anymore. Every tree has the right to grow to its potential, and it waits with open arms to welcome birds, and other creatures, who use its boughs as homes to raise young families. Hope and life has been restored, thanks to a little boy of many years ago. A little boy who couldn’t bear to see another tree suffer an agonizing death, simply to satisfy the whims of man.