How to love your tree beyond the holidays.

Last night, what started as a simple storytime ended with a family council. The kids got in their pajamas, Patrick made a fire, and we read a short story, “The Tree That Didn’t Get Trimmed”, published in 1957 by Christopher Morley. It is available for free reading online and also on Google Play.

The story begins in the woods with vivid imagery of what it must be like to live as an evergreen tree:

If you walk through a grove of balsam trees you will notice that the young trees are silent: they are listening. But the old tall ones- especially the firs- are whispering. They are telling the story of The Tree That Didn’t Get Trimmed. It sounds like a painful story, and the murmur of the old trees as they tell it is rather solemn; but it is an encouraging story for young saplings to hear. On warm autumn days when your trunk is tickled by ants and insects climbing, and the resin is hot and gummy in your knots, and the whole glade smells sweet, drowsy, and sad, and the hardwood trees are boasting of the gay colors they are beginning to show, many a young evergreen has been cheered by it.

The final paragraph of the story left the family feeling hopeful, yet somehow disturbed about the future of our own tree.

Something nice, the old firs believe, always happens to the trees that don’t get trimmed. They even believe that someday one of the Christmas-tree bean poles will be the starting point for another Magic Beanstalk, as in the fairy tale of the boy who climbed up the bean tree and killed the giant. When that happens, fairy tales will begin all over again.

After reading it, all of us stared at our tree and thought things we didn’t articulate. So I called a Family Council and tried to make the case for a better future.


“I move that, after the holidays, we take our tree into the woods behind the house and put it in a special place where it can return to its roots and we can visit it.”


“Yeah! It can be the Christmas Tree Corner.”


“Does anyone second the motion?”


“I second it!”


“All in favor, say aye.”


If only all family council meetings and decisions went so smoothly…. Democracy in action is a messy, messy thing.

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