Column: Let me tell you a story about Caleb, the Christmas Tree


I went with my parents to get a Christmas tree.

All the trees were wearing hangtags shaped like bells and all the bells had hand-lettered names on them. At first, I assumed these trees were spoken for and the names indicated the person who had reserved the tree. Then I realized that, no, the names were for the trees.

This was a fancy place and apparently, when you spend as much as this store was charging for a tree, the tree came complete with a name. Actually, for what they were charging, I’m surprised the trees didn’t come with at least a two-year degree from a Vo-Tech college. Still, they were lovely trees, I must admit. We immediately spotted a Balsam Fir named “Howard,” and the wind was so chill I was fully prepared ready to pile Howard on top of the car and call it a day.

But tradition insisted we make something resembling a hunt and so we reviewed the rest of the trees lined up in the windy parking lot until we came to one that seemed to have near perfect shape: not too bushy, an attractive leader at the top, no straggly branches at the bottom, and just the right height. There was only one problem: the tree was named “Caleb.”

“Mom, Caleb is not a good name for a Christmas tree.”

“No, it really isn’t,” my mother agreed. We both studied Caleb silently. There was no denying that Caleb was an attractive tree.

“Maybe we could rename him,” my mother suggested, as we strapped Caleb to the roof for the short drive home.

My dad got out the metal tree stand which is old and a little rusty and will never be replaced because you can’t buy one like it anymore. He pounded the tree down onto the stake in the middle of the pan and tightened the screws. He raised the tree into a standing position and its branches slowly relaxed, showing off its full splendor, then he wrapped it in a few strings of lights.

“Do you think that’s enough lights?” my mother asked my husband, Peter, (who is the least likely to have an opinion on the subject) and Peter declared that there were plenty of lights.

Then my mom pulled out the ornaments and wondered aloud where many of them came from and how long we have had them. We don’t remember.

Except we know the little fellow in the canoe used to be holding an oar until my dad carved a tiny paddle for him (because what was he doing with an oar in a canoe?) And my mom remembers the ornaments she brought back the year they visited the Holy Land. But what about the sled that had my dad’s name on it and the year: “1982”? It is a mystery, as is the angel made of pinecones and the tiny skiers holding tiny skies and the surprising number of mice in Christmas attire.

“You could have dressed up a whole string of them you caught under the sink this week!” I suggested to my mom (a thought she did not seem to care for).

There were a few glass balls hung to fill in the empty spaces and the whole process was finished in what seemed like no time at all.

“I think Caleb looks very nice!” my mother declared.

And, while I still thought it was a wildly inappropriate name for a Christmas tree, Caleb had somehow managed — as is often the case this time of year — to embody the Christmas spirit exactly.

Till next time.

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Carrie Classon’s memoir, “Blue Yarn,” was released earlier this year. Learn more at CarrieClasson.com.

Carrie Classon’s memoir, “Blue Yarn,” was released earlier this year. Learn more at CarrieClasson.com.