Living in the forested mountains of Oregon, Christmas was always an important and exciting time of year for Andrew and his father. While his mother and sister stayed at home making homemade Christmas cookies, handmade Christmas ornaments, and decorated the house in their own special and unique ways, Andrew and his father would make the annual trip out into the forest to find the perfect Christmas tree for all of the beautiful Christmas ornaments to hang from. As far back as he could remember, Andrew and his father had been making the trip out into the woods together and it would remain a precious memory in his heart for the rest of his life. There was one particular Christmas, however, that Andrew remembered more fondly than the others. It was the year that he was given the responsibility of finding, choosing, and cutting down the family Christmas tree all on his own.
Now, this may not seem like a particularly important task for most people, but for Andrew it symbolized the fact that he was becoming a man and could be trusted with the things that his father had always been responsible for. That Christmas Andrew was 15 and he and his father set out on their annual trek to find the perfect Christmas tree to bring home to be decorated with all the lights, ornaments, and decorations that his mother and sister were busily preparing at home. Normally his father would take the lead and the two of them would set out in whatever direction he chose. They would walk through the dense forest together, but his father always led the way until he found the perfect Christmas tree to take home to the family to be decorated with all of those precious Christmas ornaments. That year, however, Andrew was given the task of leading the way and was told that he alone would be responsible for choosing the right Christmas tree to take home and present to his mother and sister for approval. They took their Christmas ornament and decorating duties very seriously and Andrew did not want to disappoint them.
It was a lot of pressure for Andrew who was used to following, rather than leading, not just in the Christmas tree hunt, but in all aspects of life as well. Andrew felt a huge weight of responsibility on his shoulders because Christmas was the most important holiday of the year for his entire family. The Christmas tree had to be perfect so that his mother and sister could place all of their beautiful handmade Christmas ornaments, treasured German ornaments, and decorations on it to honor their love of god and family. Not only did the tree have to be the right height, the right width, and have the right about of branches, it also had to have perfect balance, freshness, and color. This was because his mother and sister were used to the high standards his father had set all of those Christmases before. If the tree was not just right they would be disappointed with how their Christmas ornaments would hang on the branches and he did not want to disappoint them. While there are certainly more important things to worry about than how the Christmas ornaments hang on the Christmas tree, it was something that was important to his family, so Andrew took the responsibility of finding the perfect Christmas tree very seriously.
As they headed out into the Oregon forest, Andrew led his father deep into the woods and tried to get a sense of which direction he should go in. It was strange having his father follow behind him because in all the years prior he had been the one following his father. While Andrew was still a slight-framed boy who had trouble even carrying the ax he needed to use to cut down the Christmas tree, his father was a large man who always seemed like a giant bear to him, especially when they were out in the woods and he was bundled up in his large brown coat, knit hat, furry gloves, and working boots. Andrew wanted nothing more than to prove to his father that he could find the perfect Christmas tree, so he kept walking with as much self-confidence as he could muster.
As they walked through the snow covered forest, Andrew searched intensely for just the right shape in the trees that surrounded them. Andrew thought about the looks that would be on the faces of his mother and sister when he brought in the Christmas tree he had chosen. He tried to imagine the look of joy they might have as they decorated his tree with beautiful Christmas ornaments, but then he would suddenly be filled with self-doubt and imagined a look of disappointment and sorrow as they refused to place their Christmas ornaments on his less-than-perfect tree. Then he would see the look of disappointment on the face of his father as they spent the whole day searching for the perfect Christmas tree that would never come. It was almost too much pressure for Andrew as he wanted to tell his father that he just could not do it, but something inside kept him going as he kept his eyes peeled for the perfect Christmas tree that was waiting for him in the woods.
Suddenly, like a precious gift from god, Andrew walked out into a clearing and there in the middle of the Oregon forest stood the most perfect tree he had ever seen. It stood alone in the clearing, almost as if it had been placed there specifically for him, and he knew instantly that this was the tree that he was meant to find. It stood nearly nine feet tall and its branches flared out more than four feet wide. Its bright green branches and needles were perfectly spaced all around and he could just see all of the Christmas ornaments, lights, and decorations placed all around it in his mind. Andrew walked around the tree and inspected in from all sides and when he finally declared that this was the tree, he looked up at his father and saw his proud and beaming face smiling back at him. His father nodded in agreement and Andrew set out to chop the tree down with the ax. Though it took him nearly an hour to chop the tree down, a task that would have only taken his father a few minutes, Andrew managed to fell the tree all on his own and the two of them together carried the prized Christmas tree back to the house to be decorated with beautiful Christmas ornaments and lights. It was at that moment that Andrew felt as if he had gone into the woods that morning a boy, but emerged from it as a man. He knew from that point on that he would be able to do whatever he set his mind to and would no longer need to rely on his father.
As they brought the tree into the house, the faces of his mother and sister were filled with joy and excitement and it was even better than he had imagined. They jumped for joy as they brought out their homemade Christmas ornaments and unpacked their treasured German ornaments from storage in preparation for decorating the tree. Andrew was given the task of setting up the Christmas tree as his father helped him instead of the other way around. The whole family then sang Christmas carols as they all decorated the tree with hundreds of Christmas ornaments and strings of lights. It seemed as if there was a branch for each ornament and an ornament for each branch, perfectly matched for his family alone. When they turned on the lights and saw how they sparkled against all the beautiful Christmas ornaments, Andrew felt a tear in his eye as his heart filled with love and pride.
Today, Andrew and his own family celebrate their own Christmas traditions. His wife makes Christmas ornaments, decorations, and cookies with their daughter and he takes his own son out to find the perfect Christmas tree each year. This year Andrew will be passing on the Christmas tree hunting responsibilities to his own son and he cannot wait to see the transformation as his son to grows into a man just as he did all those years ago.