Jennifer Jones is AFF's vice president of communications. She and her husband own nine acres of woodlands in Oakland, Maryland.
How perfect to read about Bonnie MacKay’s Christmas tree last night when I was finally able to dive into the boxes of ornaments and start decorating my own Christmas tree, a beautiful one from a family forest owner in Garrett County, Maryland.
The story of Bonnie’s tree, decorated with more than 3,000 ornaments, many of which are family heirlooms, touched a raw nerve in me as I started unwrapping my own collection of ornaments, co-mingled now with my husband’s.
This, my second Christmas tree to decorate having just come back from Connecticut to help my aging parents decorate their home for the holidays. This year, bringing ornaments out of the attic had an even larger impact on us as we gathered even closer, even more attentive to the family memories each one represented. The memories of love and safety.
I know for me, and I suspect millions of families around the country, the same sentiment Bonnie feels for her tree, we share too. “The tree has always been the thing that was my anchor, no matter what,” Bonnie noted. “It was my heritage…this is the most important thing about Christmas.”
Placing our name ornament on our family Christmas tree was always a very important ritual for us six kids—a set of brass stars with our individual names hanging in the middle. We all vied for the best location on the tree—a tree we had all picked out together. This year, my mother was deliberate about hanging each of the name ornaments herself, slowly and thoughtfully.
Many of my favorite ornaments still hang on my parents’ tree. I’ve begun to collect my own, including those my mother has given me, like the red door that looks so much like the front door of the home I grew up in. It’s always the first ornament I put on my tree, symbolically connecting me back to my family heritage.
I can imagine many in our AFF family, gathering around their own specially-decorated trees, perhaps cut from their own family forests. Maybe you’ll be humming “O Christmas Tree” – a favorite holiday song. Originally written in 1824, the song celebrated what the composer saw was the fir tree’s qualities of constancy and faithfulness. I know for me when I walk through any woods, I am grateful for the constant companionship of all the trees that bring me comfort and joy.
On behalf of the American Forest Foundation, let me wish you and yours a safe and happy holiday season. I’ll close now with a favorite letter received from Jace, an elementary school student in Florida who wrote a letter to the sand pine:
"Thank you for everything you’ve done. You let us use you for Christmas trees. On Christmas most people thank you for that. You also clean the air pollution if you didn’t do that we would be trying hard to breath. You also give us shade when we are hot.
P.S. cool nickname, Pinus Clausa."
Photo shows my 2012 Christmas tree.