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If you can’t be with the Christmas tree you love …

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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Citizens of Rome are complaining about the skinny and sickly nature of their city’s official Christmas tree. Obviously “A Charlie Brown Christmas” does not air in Italy.

If it did, the disgruntled Italians would know that Christmas is not defined by the number of needles on a tree.

Aside from that, the complaints coming from Rome about the tree’s having died and lost most of its needles do not ring true. I’m no arborist, but the photographs being circulated show a tree that is simply old.

I can tell because I’m friends with an elderly Tennessee Christmas tree that looks just like it.

When my father purchased our small family farm in 1977, the family moving out had planted its Christmas tree in the front yard the year before. Now, it’s at least 60 feet high and looks almost exactly like the one in Rome—tired.

When fir trees become old, their needles begin to hang under the branches rather than reaching upward. The tree in Rome has that stately senior quality, which should be celebrated and not scorned.

We have always loved and cherished our old Christmas tree, even after a road crew cut off its lower branches on one side about 20 years ago. I suggested trimming more of the lower branches to even things out, but Dad didn’t want to open up the view between his porch and the neighbors.

Now that the tree is older and thinner, the view is pretty much open anyway.

The people of Rome are especially upset about the more than $50,000 their city paid for that official Christmas tree. They might just be mad that they didn’t get to help pick one out. That has happened at my house before.

We typically put off getting a tree until all the fuller, more expensive ones have been snatched up. The slim pickings that I’ve brought home several Christmases have been met with disappointed groans.

I wrote a column earlier this month about our family’s being the last one on the block to haul in and decorate a tree. In response, my poet friend Bill Warren, who reads my column in Sarasota, Fla., sent me a wonderful poem on the subject.

O Tannenbaum (revisited)

O Christmas tree, pray say to me,

why doth thy branches shed so?

And just what cur proclaimed the fir

a Holy Tree, who said so?

And what hath tangled light bulb cord

to do with honoring our Lord?

'til Bethlehem hath one of them,

no more that chore I dread so.

A year's gone by, no tree hath I,

I didn't buy or tend one.

If Bethlehem wants one of them,

to Bethlehem I'll send one.

Then I can have a Christmas tree,

and all its twinkling lights I'll see.

They're still a mess, but I confess,

'tain't Christmas ’til I get one.

Bill Warren

12/21/31–( )

Our family has learned that any old tree I wind up loading from the supermarket parking lot will look fine and dandy once festooned with ornaments and lights. Perhaps before this Christmas celebration is over, the people of Rome will have learned that about their official tree.

And if they decided next year that they’d like another one like it, I know where they can get one for half the price.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.

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