The place: Charlie's Christmas Tree Emporium, in Anywhere, U.S.A.
The time: the week before Christmas, Tuesday, December 15, 2009.
The trees still in residence were all excited: they knew that Christmas time was quickly approaching. They made sure their branches were in pristine, tip-top condition. They fluffed their evergreens, shook the snow off, and stood, erect, whenever the Big Boss .. Charlie Green .. passed by.
They wanted to look their best.
A very fat, fluffy, healthy looking tree specimen named Evergreen surveyed his comrades around him. He was the longest living resident: over 20 winters old. He had lots of age and experience about what made a proper Christmas tree; he wanted to make sure he looked his best for whatever families came to the Christmas Tree Emporium, in the hopes that someone would choose him.
This was when he noticed a tiny, scrawny looking tree sitting in the corner. The little tree couldn't have been more than two winters old at the most: it was just a baby in comparison to the other trees. The little tree looked lost. Forlorn. Misbegotten.
"O, nobody will ever choose me", the little tree sighed as a tiny, frosty tear dripped off the end of one of his branches. "I'm too little, too young, too inexperienced. I don't even know what it takes to act like a proper Christmas tree!"
"O, Little Tree", Evergreen boomed, "It takes a lot of skill to be a proper Christmas tree! You have to look strong. Healthy. Sure of yourself. You have to have the spirit of Christmas down to the very tip of your branches. You have to look interested, so the right person can choose you to live in their home! Name's Evergreen, by the way. Nice to meet you."
"Oh, Mr. Evergreen", the littlest tree sighed dismally, "I don't think I have what it takes to be a proper tree. I don't look like a Christmas tree. I'm too little! I'm just a baby!"
"Pish-posh! You have to have the want-to; you can't be a proper Christmas tree unless you know what it takes. I will teach you if you want, " Evergreen said.
"Oh, could you?" the little tree piped up excitedly. "I'd dearly love to be someone's Christmas tree!"
A few days later, the littlest tree (now named Firry) busied himself with his Christmas Tree lessons: how to stretch your branches skyward and outward, so your best qualities stood out, look interested whenever people walked by, and know the true meaning of Christmas down to the very sap that flowed within you. Firry was a quick learner; he learned his lessons well.
You wouldn't know it was the same tree when you looked at Firry now. He seemed older somehow. Stronger. A little taller. Bursting with health. While he was still tiny compared to the other trees, he did somehow seem more mature, more sure of himself.
That night, a little boy stopped by to look at the trees. He was with his parents. The little boy was sickly and small for his age. He sat in a rickety old wheelchair; he couldn't walk because he was so weak. He stared at Firry with great interest; he thought he found the tree he wanted.
"But the tree's so small, Timmy", the boy's father said. "Don't you want a bigger tree?"
The little boy shook his head back and forth furiously. "Nope", he cried. "I want this little tree. He's cute!"
As he heard the child's comments, Firry stood erect, trying to look important. He knew that a potential sale was in the offing. He wanted to make sure he stood out from the rest of the trees. He fluffed his branches grandly, and stood as tall as he possibly could, a smile playing on his face. He thought that the little boy could use a friend, even if it was only a Christmas tree.
An hour later, Firry found himself being placed in a battered truck. His little heart pounded with fear: he didn't know what to expect, let alone, where he was going. While he was happy to have been chosen, he was scared about what might happen to him.
About ten minutes later, the truck reached its destination. It was a hospital. Not just any hospital, but a hospital for sick children.
Firry felt himself being lifted out of the truck by two strong men, who carried him quickly inside. He looked around him, taking in the sights and the smells. He didn't like the smells: it smelled like death or sickness/disease; it frightened him.
The last time he smelled these odors was when his parents were taken by a blight of worms that sucked the very life out of trees. These worms had a particular fondness for evergreens. This was how his parents died.
One minute, his parents were there; the next: gone. It was the worst day of his young life.
The men talked to Firry in pleasant, calming tones as they put him in a huge lobby decorated with red, gold, and green ribbon, tiny, twinkling lights, and evergreen. It looked mighty festive. They placed him in a holder, fluffed out his branches, and gently placed garlands of lights and decorations on his branches. While the feel was strange at first, he soon learned that they were there, to make him look even prettier, so he accepted them without any provocation.
"Soon the little ones will visit you, Firry", one of the men said to him. "They are sad because they are in the hospital, but I know you will bring them joy, something they need, particularly during this time of year. Be gentle and kind to them. They need to know someone loves them and cares for what they are going through."
Soon, an army of kids dressed in gowns or pajamas descended upon Firry. Some of the kids sat in wheelchairs; others lay in beds or on stretchers. They all looked sad until they saw Firry. At the sight of the pretty little tree, gasps of wonderment and joy spread across their faces. One member of the group of children looked familiar: it was his friend, Timmy!
Firry glowed in the attention lavished upon him as little pale hands reached out to touch his branches. How he wished he were Human, so he could hug each little child!
It made him sad, though, to see so much suffering among the children. Some had no hair on their heads; others had various tubes in them; still others had scars or bandages. But Firry decided to stand tall and bring them all a little Christmas cheer as only a little Christmas tree could.
The children forgot their sicknesses or pain as they continued to laugh and love the little Christmas tree that came into their world.
No, it wouldn't be forever, but during the time the children spent with Firry, it was the best Christmas ever. And any time they were feeling lonely or scared, or in pain, they could come visit Firry any time they wanted.