This was it; this was the year! She could feel it in her bones or if you wanted to be so semantic (although, that wasn’t typically a characteristic sported by most trees), branches. She had been waiting for this year all her life despite her family members warning her that she would never be the prized holiday tree to overlook thousands of onlookers during the winter season. Still, she persisted in belief and in growth.
Year after year, she had crept up, slowly surpassing her other brothers and sisters, even her parents in height. She was a white spruce, and while most people found her kind to be perfectly good to decorate a small city square, no one believed a white spruce would once again grace the world-renowned Rockefeller Center.
For the last decade or so, her growth had slowed. She was over 70 feet tall, an impressive feat for any tree, let alone a white spruce. But it wasn’t enough to be chosen for Rockefeller Center, not when a Norway spruce could be tens of feet taller!
While she would previously have spurted two feet higher annually, the recent years saw only a fraction of that growth. Her neighbors thought her growth was done, and she should accept her fate as the tallest tree in the forest.
But she wasn’t happy with that, and she willed herself to grow taller, her trunk to grow wider. Her needles had a blue hue that she was positive would reflect twinkling strands of lights in a way that passersby would “Ooh” and “Aah” over if only they were given a chance. She just knew it!
So she hoped, and she grew, little by little. And the miraculous happened: she grew a lot by a lot. Suddenly, she was growing an extra inch a month. In the past year’s time, she had shot up three feet to a whopping 76 feet tall. Any taller, and she would have been too tall to squeeze into the New York city streets she would need to navigate to reach her destination. Like that, her growth slowed.
This was why she knew that her time had come. At her final height, she towered above the other white spruces in the forest and even some of the Norways, too! She could see for miles, and she stood contentedly for weeks, her trunk full of the quiet self-assurance one possesses once they finally see the goal in sight.
She was among the first trees in the thicket to see the helicopter coming. She saw it well before she heard it hovering en route and long before she felt the vibrations-turned-gusts overhead. She watched in determined silence at it approached, without a peep to her friends or family. It had been years since she mentioned her heart’s quest to anyone. Not her mother, now brittle with age, nor her best friend, a beautiful fir over whom she now towered, knew her truest desires until the people approached.
And as a representative surveyed the crowd, focusing on the Norway spruces, she didn’t discourage. Instead, she puffed out her needles and gently shook her branches as though a breeze had appeared. There was none. But her preening was enough to get him to glance in her direction, and the tree knew she had succeeded.
The man walked closer, and the tree did her best to send welcoming waves in his direction. She straightened her posture and extended her branches like a carefully-trained ballerina. This was her year.
So she wasn’t surprised when the man picked up his device and spoke.
“’Ey boss, we’ve got a looker over here.”
Still, she couldn’t hold back her excitement. He liked her!
So did the “boss,” who nodded his approval and made a notation on his sheet of paper (some trees liked the utilitarian nature of becoming paper, but that was never in the books for this tree).
The boss man carefully looped a ribbon around one of her lower branches, and she shivered with anticipation. He looked up as she did, seeing a ripple of blue-green needles amid an otherwise still forest.
And then he left. That’s when her panic set in. Didn’t he like her? She was so tall, so blue, so strong! She’d done everything she could, and more than anyone thought she was able to! This was supposed to be her year.
If a tree could brood, this one did. She sulked, her branches dipping toward the ground as the sun fell lower in the sky. This was her year, damn it!
Her anxiety grew throughout the evening; her panic became nearly palpable as the moon rose and set, then the sun returned once more. But with the sun returned the man with the clipboard and the helicopter. This time he brought with him an entourage in hard hats with tools at their sides. A massive machine was driving toward her.
This really was her year! She practically beamed; although, trees have no face, so that’s fairly improbable.
The men approaching the tree did so carefully with a sort of reverence. This was the one tree that was good enough to be transported to Rockefeller Center, and it had to be treated with care so that it wouldn’t be damaged during the moving process.
The men carefully pulled her upper branches upward and bound them with help from the vehicle that lifted them to her uppermost branches. The lift allowed removing some of her lowermost branches, the tree’s first experience with a saw. At first, it tickled. The pain followed. But she gritted herself. This was her year, she reminded herself.
The men wrapped the lowest remaining branches protectively and secured her with the assistance of the machine, which she heard them call a “crane,” before getting down to the real sawing. This was more painful, the most painful thing she’d ever experienced, and it took much longer than removing a few branches.
Still, she knew it was necessary for her to become the holiday tree that would adorn Rockefeller Center, so she bore it with grace.
Eventually, it was over, and she barely rested on her stump. The tree could no longer feel her roots; it was so foreign. She wished she had relished the feeling for the last time, but she was so overwhelmed with the entire process. Before long, she was being carefully lowered, then placed atop the trailer that would haul her to Rockefeller Center.
It was disconcerting to be on her side. She no longer could see for miles. The truck rumbled, and she felt helpless the way she was bound, yet she knew it was for her protection.
Trees don’t have a sense of time the same way that people do, but this tree’s final destination couldn’t come soon enough. Long after the truck’s engine had been cut, the tree remained shaking with anticipation. But the process of lifting the tree from the trailer and standing her upright was as least as long and arduous as the process of getting her on there in the first place.
The excited tree was finally at Rockefeller Center! And as she was raised, she could look on with awe at Manhattan sprawled around her. The tree had never seen a city before and certainly not one of this magnitude. There were people everywhere, already hustling and bustling to and fro. Cars filled the streets.
The tree had grown accustomed to the dulcet tones of the man who was in charge, the one who had taken note when he had seen this tree for the first time. But there was nothing that could truly prepare this tree for the sights and sounds surrounding her.
There was so much light and even more noise. It was deafening, but the tree found it exhilarating. She could not have imagined what it would really be like to live in Rockefeller Center, even if it was the last part of her life.
And she was already feeling a disconnect with the living world she had previously known. The tree had lost her roots, literally. She had shed more needles at one time than ever before in her long life. She was cut and scratched. But she was ready. After all, this was her year!
The white spruce was distracted by the thriving city around her, so she didn’t realize when she was finally hoisted and secured into place. The truck and trailer that had carted her in had departed, and the crowd of workmen had thinned.
Finally, no wires were holding her branches up. The tree stretched her stiff limbs and unfurled her boughs for the last time. She extended outward toward buildings, happy to finally be free and standing at Rockefeller Center.
The beautiful tree gazed around her, spreading her branches like open and loving arms and towering like a friendly giant above the people far below her. They glanced up in awe, just like the tree knew they would. She preened once again for anyone who would look in her direction.
This year might be her last but, finally and triumphantly, it was her year.