She shook her head. “No, I don’t think so, daddy.”
“Why not? It’s perfect. Seven foot blue spruce, straight and full.”
She looked up at the tree and shook her head. “It’s not the right one daddy.”
She tromped away. Little pink boots left footprints in the snow.
He watched her tug her plastic sled over a fallen branch, looked at the spruce one more time, slid his axe back into its sheath and let out a sigh. “Okay, but you won’t find a more perfect tree.”
She stopped dead in her tracks. Her mitten opened and dropped the rope attached to the sled. She turned around and put her hands on her hips. “Daddy, we’re not looking for the perfect tree.” She shook her head and held her hands out to her side. “We’re looking for the right tree.”
He pulled in a breath and pointed at the seven footer, “But this—”
“There it is!” She ran three steps, turned around, ran back, picked up the rope and jerked her sled off toward a scrawny tilting evergreen about five foot tall.
By the tracks in the snow it was obvious that the tree had been hit by a snowmobile. It was broke at the trunk. On one side the branches were smashed and twisted.
She raised both hands in the air. “Daddy look! This is the one!”
“Oh honey...this tree's b—”
“Beautiful! I know! I told you we’d find the right one.”
He shook his head. “This tree’s been hit. It’s already starting to lose its needles. It won't even last through Christmas.”
“Perfect?” He pointed back toward the seven foot spruce. “That's perfect.”
She shook her head and put her hands on her hips, again. This time she stomped one of those little pink boots. “We need each other. It’s perfect, better than perfect...it’s right.”
She shook her head again and turned around and looked at the wounded tree. “Yep, that’s the one.” She nodded and smiled.
That tree made it through Christmas.
As a matter of fact, after sitting in water through Christmas and a hundred and one conversations with a little girl, it was planted on the south side of the barn where the exhaust vents kept the ground soft all year long. In the spring, it started to grow. To this day it shades the south side of the barn and that was over fifteen years ago.
That little girl? She’s twenty two. Married with two kids; one boy, one girl.
Just the other day she sat with her dad on the front porch at the farm.
“Dad…” She pulled in a deep breath and let it out real slow. “Dad, how'd my life get so messed up?”
He looked at her, lifted a little smile and waited.
“I had everything planned so perfect, but now...” She shook her head. “Now, when I look at him, I don’t feel a thing. I can't laugh or cry or smile I'm numb. Why is life so hard?”
“Come on, I want to show you something.”
She followed her father.
He leaned against the south wall of the old red barn. “Listen.”
She waited and then shrugged. “What?”
He held a finger up to his lips.
They waited. Listened.
Coo-ah, coo, coo, coo…
He looked near the top of a twenty-five foot blue spruce.
She followed his gaze.
There perched on a bent and twisted limb sat a pair of mourning doves.
“They mate for life” he whispered.
She bit her lip.
“The male only has one foot. He can’t fly straight…or far.”
Her mouth dropped open “How’d that happ—”
“I hit him with the tractor a few years back. Didn’t think he’d make it, let alone find a mate. He couldn’t fly circles or dance the mating ritual like they’re supposed to do…”
They listened to the mournful call.
“Look close at the female. She's the smaller one on the left…she’s only got one eye.”
“What? No.” She made a sad little sigh.
“I figure she must’ve tangled with a kid and a BB gun.”
"She can barely see and he can hardly fly." He looked at his daughter. “They need each other.”
She swallowed hard. Looked at the tree, the crooked twisted limb, the less than perfect pair. She blinked and spilled one bottled up tear...and then another. Her pretty chin quivered. She smiled, then laughed and then she cried. “It’s perfect, better than perfect...it’s right.”
Love like the perfect Christmas tree.
It grows quiet, and soft, and slow.
Not with the flash spark and speed of a manufactured tree.
It sheds needles, bares branches. The needles, once soft and supple, bright and green, dry out, loose their color, turn hard, brittle and prickly.
It’s sappy and sticky and it just won’t leave.
It stands naked, broken, wounded, unadorned…unashamed.
Love comes softly
It grows soft, and quiet, and slow
Birthed from The Perfect Seed in a manger...
Love is better than perfect...it's right.
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