While living in the country, several years back, our family had a Christmas custom. Each year we would search our pastures and cut down a scrub pine for our Christmas tree. After cutting down our find, and hauling it home, the real work began…at least for Jerry. Wrestling the prickly branches, he would valiantly struggle to set the tree straight in the stand under the direction of 4 women, each with a different opinion! Once secure, we proceeded to clear out the spider webs, stray grass, an occasional bird’s nest and give it a good spraying with Raid in case any” critters” were still in residence! Next Jerry would turn it like a slow top as we determined the best side to face the room.
One particular Christmas, the girls decided this would be the year of the PERFECT TREE. They became a self-appointed committee of three, and thus was born The O.C.T.S.C. (Official Christmas Tree Selection Committee.) It just so happened that a friend with a great deal of land (I’m talking miles) gave us permission to search for a tree. The big day arrived, and as we loaded up to leave, the girls INSISTED and PLEADED to bring two of our new puppies, and rather porky puppies at that! All three made death promises to carry the pups and take care of them. Against my better judgement I caved in. So off we went, Jerry, the Kindly Woodsman; me, the soon to be Keeper of the Puppies; the O.C.T.S.C., and 2 fat black, 6 week old, tons of lard with their whines on continuous play.
Upon arrival, we all tumbled out of the truck, to find just a few feet away, a darling little tree. Jerry told the girls, There is the perfect tree. It is the right size, shape and everything! The O.C.T.S.C. met for a quick consultation, and assuming this was a ploy to shorten the adventure, quickly declared the tree: Imperfect.
You see, we were dealing with a logistics problem here also. Our house was built by a man around 5 ft. tall with a family all under 5ft. Therefore, with them in mind, the house only had 7 ft. ceilings! A tree stand would add another 8”-10” to the tree height! Add to this problem, a 12’ x 12’ livingroom, with a couch, chairs, end tables, coffee table, an old upright piano (amazing isn’t it?), and a dangerous O.C.T.S.C. with BIG ideas.
The Kindly Woodsman tried to discuss it with the Committee, but to no avail. Venturing off through the woods, we found the trees were thick. Quickly, the girls asked me to hold the puppies, just until we got through the brush. Foolishly, I took them. Shrill yelps soon rang out because they were cold, so I tucked them into my coat. Trudging along through thick brush with my grunting load, I felt like I was 8 months pregnant! Shortly, came the unmistakable little howl and wiggle, time for a potty stop. Once on the ground their full bladders forgotten, they scattered in several directions at once! Following a fast skirmish, pups securely in my coat again, I looked up to see the O.C.T.S.C. and the Kindly Woodsman far ahead!. In a loud voice I threatened them to wait for me! Though peeved at my interference of such important affairs, they tramped back. Heated discussion ensued. The solution was proposed that the puppies be put in the truck, but the decision was unanimous that poopy puppy was a name truly earned. (Not to mention it was Pappaw’s truck!) Laying down the law, I gave each girl a puppy and a stern reprimand to care for them.
Off we ventured again. The girls were having a time. The pups were so fat they didn’t fit in the in their small coats; if they their coats were zipped, the pups howled in pain; if their coats were unzipped the pups popped out, and the girls couldn’t keep warm. Grudgingly, I took on my pregnancy once again. After 2 potty stops for the puppies, the brush began to clear, I thought things were looking up. . . that was until I looked down! Before us was a ravine with a nearly straight 15 ft. drop down and 15 ft. straight up the other side. To make matters worse, there was no way around it! A pathetic whine arose; I don’t know if it was the pups, me, or both! The O.C.T.S.C. gave a gleeful shout. My legs were already so scratched and bleeding from the brush, they resembled two scratching posts that had serviced a dozen cats! Sympathetically, the Kindly Woodsman took the pups and he and the girls plunged into the adventure ahead, sliding down, holding on to roots, rocks or whatever they could grab, with their laughter echoing through the woods. Down one side and up the other they went with great ease. Impatiently they waited on the other side as I struggled, giving more blood donations along the way. Clawing the dirt with my fingernails, I finally drug myself over the edge, and was promptly handed 2 pudgy, squealing puppies. Faithfully depositing them in my coat, I heard no protests.
A new clearing revealed few trees, but was covered in coarse brush with hills perfect for a roller coaster site. The further I went, the heavier the pups grew. Viewing tree after tree, the O.C.T.S.C. smugly reassured us. – No that’s not the perfect tree. We’ll know it when I see it,
One and a half hours later of this intense, grueling expedition, we came upon . . . . . the same ravine. Mastering it a second time we walked a little further and a small clearing opened up. Suddenly awe struck gasps and cries rang out from the O.C.T.S.C.!! Before us, in all its glory, towering 15 feet above our heads was the PERFECT TREE!!
“THAT’S IT! THAT’S IT!” they hollered, jumping up and down. Valiantly the Kindly Woodsman tried to reason with them. They stubbornly stuck with their decision, and after a long discussion agreed to let him cut the top out. Heading back to the truck for a bigger ax, we all turned and saw the truck sitting only 30 ft. from us; we had made a complete very large circle!!
Tree cut and loaded, we jumped into the truck, frozen and bleeding. Immediately the girls wanted to hold the pups!! (Wouldn’t you know it?!)
In the livingroom, we found the perfect tree, had to have about 1 ft. cut off 3 different times! Each time Jerry drug it in and out of our tiny living room, up and down the porch steps. Anchored in its stand, it looked somewhat less than perfect. The lower branches still reached out to the sofa and chairs grappling toward us like octopus tentacles. One by one, these branches were shortened. Huge gaping holes appeared in the tree. You can imagine what it looked like!! What looked great in the forest in the top of a tree looked pathetic in a little farmhouse livingroom with midget ceilings! The O.C.T.S.C. was in tears and angrily accused, “What have you done to our perfect tree!? You ruined it! “
We comforted the girls and tried to explain what happened. The usual decorating frenzy followed and we filled in the holes with lots of tinsel, garland, and ornaments. We were thankful that one side of it HAD to sit next to the wall! Sitting around the tree, admiring the lights and ornaments, with the branches tickling at our knees, I heard one of the girls say, You know, we should have picked the very first tree Daddy showed us, it was perfect. Two other distant sounding, sad voices echoed in agreement. Of course, we had a very Merry Christmas, but the girls learned a great lesson.
Isn’t that how it is in the lives of so many? What are you searching for – the perfect spouse, the perfect church, the perfect pastor, the perfect job…? How many of you are putting yourself and others through pain, sorrow, frustration, disappointment, and failure in pursuit of your object of perfection? The quest for perfection has left a trail of devastation in lives everywhere. After the supposed perfect person/situation is found, and after all reality trims away the infatuation, we see our find is far less than ideal. Tragically we realize that which we rejected as flawed was better than what we have now and far more valuable than we had known. In the coming year let’s limit our quest for perfection to ourselves and becoming more like the perfect Bethlehem Babe whose birth we celebrate this month. Merry Christmas and God Bless Each of You!
This was published in the Oklahoma Missionary Baptist Paper in 2000.