The Best Christmas Tree


The driveway was almost finished, snow packed up on either side as I looked up toward the house, my breath floating up away from me in a cloud of smoke.

“We’re almost there, Tor!” my mom exclaimed, smiling at me as we shoveled past the line of the sidewalk and started on the final quarter headed towards the street, my 11-year old arms aching with each lift of the shovel.  I smiled back, knowing that I had tripped upon a small space in time that held just my mom and I, the possibility of my two younger siblings calling soon from the garage or the front porch for one thing or another looming in the near future.

Ten minutes later we stood at the end of the driveway admiring our handiwork and knowing that the Midwest weather would more than likely offer us more snow to shovel in the next few hours.  The house looked cozy and warm, lit from the inside out, every light blaring, every room in use.

“Do you want to go for a walk and look at the Christmas lights?” my mom asked.

“Just the two of us?” I replied.

“Sure! Let’s go now then.”

We started off down the street, turning right on Highland Avenue, away from the park, where there would be more houses to admire, all done up for the holidays.  We plodded through the fresh packed snow, heavy and thick, making the sidewalks that had already been shoveled a relief as we hiked through the neighborhood.

Houses were bright and cheerful, lit up in a million different ways.  We admired the red, green, blue, and yellow bulbs wound through the bushes and trees and lining each window of the house two blocks up away from us, remarking on how long it must have taken the owners to put up each strand in it’s perfect place.  I told my mom about school and choir and then pointed out the wreath on the angular modern house that obviously had been rebuilt long after the neighborhood had been established, as my child’s eyes did not like the way it didn’t really fit in with the rest of the cozy houses that lined each road.

“I like that wreath,” I decided.

“It is pretty,” my mom replied.  “Now, what do you think of the house next door?”

I scrunched up my face in disapproval.

“I don’t like blue lights much.  I think I like white lights best.  They look like snow!” I exclaimed.

She laughed at me and we continued on.  I was tired, it was getting late, the snow floating down around us, and I knew this one-on-one time would soon come to end even though I would have walked five miles to make it last longer.

“We should get back soon,” my mom said, “but do you want to see the best Christmas Tree in the neighborhood first?”

My eyes grew wide, thinking of whose house it must be at, nodding my head in anticipation of witnessing this spectacular sight.  How did my mom know where the best tree was and why hadn’t she told us about it before?

With a knowing smile she led me across the street and then to my surprise cut through someone’s backyard, making me feel like we were on a secret mission, thrilled with her daring. Trudging through the deep snow we weaved behind house after house until she stopped, arriving at our very own backyard.

“There it is!” she exclaimed, “The best Christmas tree.”

Through the large 10-foot windows that lined our long living room, our own family tree shone with colorful lights and a warmth that made our backyard feel enchanted in the moonlit snow.  I shook my head at her and smiled, not wanting to give off that she had tricked me into believing that our tree was the best, but loving her for this magic holiday moment and knowing that she was right.  It was the best tree.

For though the other houses were dazzling with their holiday décor, the grandest thing I witnessed all night was our tree.  Life is like that.  Everything outside of us seems thrilling and can consume our every attention, but the grandest thing you will ever witness and experience is already inside you waiting to be realized, like a treasure you didn’t even know you had in your possession.

(Originally posted to on December 16th, 2015) 

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