Welcome to the wilds! New Jersey for me was like crossing the border into Tijuana. Sure, the new lifestyle was crazy, but no one would ever admit to living there. When my husband’s job was relocated here in August 2010, we both were frightened. Now we’re learning about life, love, and marriage in this strange new culture. Feel free to tag along for the adventure.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Defending Our Christmas Tree

Since posting the picture of my Christmas tree, I have received numerous complaints regarding its size. I have heard from my stepsister that it is lame, my sister-in-law that it’s pathetic, my uncle-in-law asking if I want him to buy me a real tree this year, and numerous other criticisms from friends. Aren’t we all being just a tiny bit judgmental in the season when we’re all supposed to be loving and kind?

Has no one ever heard the story of Fred Kleinz and the Christmas Tree Competition? Just in case I have attached it below. It’s a bit new age, but the morals within the story have been told throughout the ages; and I hope after reading it you’ll all reevaluate your judgments on my Christmas Tree…

Fred Kleinz and the Christmas Tree Competition

There once lived a business mogul named Fred Kleinz. He was a wealthy man with car manufacturing plants spread throughout the continental US. Yet, he had no heirs to his corporate thrown. In his twenties, he thought nothing of it. In his thirties, he considered the reality in passing. In his forties, this knowledge creased his forehead with worry. But at fifty, it had become a disaster. He knew his death would mark the end of the legacy that he had constructed.

In his financial life, however, all was paved in gold. In fact, he was asked to host the president and his associates for a Christmas Party. This truly was an honor for him, and he devised a plan to ensure that the entire shindig would be a success. Since the president’s visit would be the pinnacle of his career, he would stop there and pass the keys to the business empire on to one lucky employee.

The word of Mr. Kleinz’s decision spread through his plants like electricity. Cover letters and resumes were sent to him more often than reports or Christmas cards. Enjoying the attention, Fred sifted through each plea for power discarding all those he deemed unworthy. Greedy workers were the first to be “canned,” but success also took wit, intuitiveness, intelligence, charisma, and dedication. Most applicants lacked one of these attributes or all five.

By December, the maids were in a frenzy over their December 25th preparations. The guest list reached six hundred, and the house was trimmed in various decorations for the season. Fred looked over the ballrooms, the kitchen and the dining rooms with approval.

“Shall we go and buy a few trees, Sir?” the housekeeper and butler asked.

“No…No,” said Mr. Klein stroking his bearded chin. “I know just the thing. We’re going to hold a Christmas Tree Competition.” He returned to his study where the applicants’ folders were kept: three men had reached the top of his pile. He quickly set about dialing each one and told them the same thing: in a week, he would need a Christmas tree. This tree was to be displayed for the president and it should reflect each man’s character and his intentions with the company.

Lars McCormick was the first of the potentials to arrive with his tree. As his name implied he was a gigantic, well-built man who had worked his way through Kleinz Motors, beginning on the assembly line when he was just nineteen. His tree was at least twelve feet high; the stand had to be secured to the ground and tiny tinsel ropes had to be attached to the wall to keep it from toppling over. He set about decorating it with expensive glass balls that reflected the thousands of white lights wrapped around the boughs. Lars even gloated that he had to take out a loan just to pay for the ornaments. When he was finished decorating it, the pine was magnificent: reminiscent of the Rockefeller Tree in New York City.

Lars leaned back approvingly, thumbs in his britches and with a big grin said, “Now that’s a presidential tree.” Everyone agreed.

Finian Toughton was the next potential to arrive. He was not as big and strong as Lars, but he was a mental giant, having worked in automation and technological enhancements the past twenty years. He wore his thick, round lens with pride.

The maids quickly herded him to the second ballroom where his tree was to be displayed. He nodded approvingly to the space saying, “This will do just nicely.” Then, he made fourteen trips from his pick-up truck to the room, carrying boxes of various shapes and sizes.

When he finished piecing together his ten foot tree, it was magnificent. Fiber optic branches flashed different colored lights. The ornaments were all special pieces that sang, moved, or flashed.

“Now that’s a presidential tree,” said Finian pushing his glasses up his nose in triumph. Everyone agreed.

Finally, there was Zeke Onagan. Zeke was neither large like Lars or an electronics genius like Finian, he was slow and calculated. He worked at Kleinz as an engineer, drawing sketches for the inside and out of all the vehicles. Unlike the other two, he was not distinguished by his ascension through the ranks at the plant or his capability to work with flat-screens and GPS devices. He was a quiet, honest employee whose suggestions were always valid and his designs always liked.

In the third ballroom, he hunched over as he evaluated the location for his tree.

“It cannot be too close to the fireplace,” he told the onlookers. “And it must be watered every day. The air in this room is very dry.”

“Of course, Sir,” replied the housekeeper. “We will water it just like Mr. McCormick’s tree in the first ballroom.”

“It will need a little more than ‘at,” Zeke answered. “’Cause mine’s livin.” As if in acknowledgment of his words, two well-built gentleman rolled a six foot tree into the room in an enormous, festive pot. The hand cart they used tilted it a little and a thin trail of dirt marked their steps. The housekeeper was appalled, but said nothing hurrying to clean up the mess.

Children’s voices followed the tree, impeding the housekeeper from cleaning. There were five of them pulling and carrying boxes of various sizes like elves. Their chatter was about their Christmas tree and how the president would see it. They were herded toward the tree by their mother, who warned them about breaking anything in the house.

The ballroom filled with the scent of popcorn and the sounds of caroling and Christmas cheer. Even the butler and housekeeper took part in the merriment. Soon, the popcorn garland had been wrapped around the tree just below strings of multi-colored lights. Interspersed throughout the boughs were ornaments, homemade and store bought. The only elegant or electronic pieces were shiny keepsakes with words like, “Our First Christmas” and “Baby’s First Christmas.”

Carefully Zeke climbed a ladder and set a star atop the Christmas tree. Delicately he plugged it in, and much to everyone's delight it shimmered.

“Now, that’s a presidential Christmas tree,” he said. The children clapped and cheered. The housekeeper and butler agreed, but only to their faces. They had seen the rest of the competition.

December 25th approached, but at the last possible moment, the president had to cancel. There was a global crisis of sorts. Fred, facing a crisis of his own, quickly penned new invitations:

Because the wise men had camels; not jet packs… 

We must postpone the party until January 14th
when our wise guest can arrive.

Fred Kleinz

P.S. Don’t forget that one lucky employee 
will be given my business that night. 

At first, Fred reconsidered the postscript, but ultimately decided that it was necessary to ensure that everyone would still attend. He feared the president’s reception would be too small otherwise. He was wrong; he was already the party gossip. However, his note when "leaked" to a reporter did create a press blizzard. By the time the party arrived, the guests practically walked a red carpet to enter the Kleinz Estate.

Inside, Lars, the first participant, stared disheartened at his tree. What once looked brilliant; now had wilted slightly and the glass bulbs drooped along the boughs. Finian, the second participant, grinned as his tree came to life in a cacophony of music, movement, and light. Zeke, too had a proud smile as the multi-colored lights brightened on his pine, and his children’s eyes lit up with wonder.

The house was alive with polite conversation and electric with possibility. The president arrived and applause resounded. Dinner was served, followed by dessert. Most scooped the pies and cakes into their mouths quickly as predictions over who Mr. Kleinz would choose resonated.

Then, "there arose such a clatter that everyone sprang from their seats to see what was a matter." In the first ballroom, dressed to the hilt, was a Santa Clause of sorts. Fred Kleinz grinned from behind the white beard and red suit as “Here Comes Santa Clause” played on the sound system. On the last note of the song, the guests cheered.

“Ho, ho, ho,” laughed Fred. “It’s time to see where my business will go, go, go.” Some of the more forgiving members of the crowd chuckled at his poor rhyme. Lars shuffled to the front, hoping Mr. Kleinz would overlook the wilting tree.

“What a magnificent tree?!” exclaimed Fred. “It is so big and decorated so beautifully. Surely, this tree could have won awards. His dreams for my company seem to be big and award-wining.”

“Thank you,” Lars mumbled through a smile that exposed every tooth in his mouth. He thought for sure his tree had just won.

“But,” Fred disciplined. “This tree looks like every other. It only looks to tradition; it does not look forward to what’s next. To be an entrepreneur, one must look to the future and have plans that weather through the changes.”

Lars slouched. His posture hunched like a tired lumberjack. His tree had lost.

In the second ballroom, all the onlookers crowded around the tree with Fred in his Santa suit. Finian inched toward the front with a triumphant readjustment of his glasses.

“What a brilliant tree?!” exclaimed Fred. “It is beautifully decorated with things that moves and lights that blink. Surely, Finian has progressive plans for my company?!”

Finian smiled leaning back to enjoy the lime light.

“But,” Fred disciplined. “This tree looks only to the future without a foundation in the past, and though it lasts through time…it will never change. You cannot run a business on gimmicks alone.”

Finian wilted and his glasses slid down to the tip of his nose. His tree had lost.

In the third ballroom, Zeke and his family crowded around their tree with hope.

“What a unique tree?!” exclaimed Fred as the guests hurried with their cameras. “And what strange decorations. It makes me hungry just looking at it.” The little kids laughed as Fred eyed the popcorn. For dramatic effect, he continued inspecting the tree and each ornament.

“This tree will grow and change with each season,” Fred admired. “It looks to tradition, but I see the lights and technology of the future. In any business, it’s important for all those involved to share and receive benefits. Just as this tree has been watered, it has given us back oxygen. Every decoration is unique, created by every member of this family. In business, success must be shared by all employees. But most of all…what every business needs-” Fred winked. “is love. And this tree has been created with both love and dedication.”

Fred turned to Zeke and handed him a small, wrapped box. Delicately, Zeke unwrapped it with his family’s eyes all staring at the tiny package. When at last the box was unveiled, a golden key lay wrapped in sparkling tissue paper.

“To a man who can grow such a tree,” Fred complimented. “I entrust the future of my business.”

The crowd applauded. Flashes twinkled throughout the room like the star atop the tree, and all was merry and bright.

As Fred reminds us all on Christmas, it is not the size of the tree, the ornaments, or the cost of our gifts that is important; but rather the love that we share in spending time together.


And so I say to you dear bloggers, Remember Fred Kleinz and know that January 14th when your chopped tree is on its way to the dump or fake tree is stuffed in a box, mine will still be brightly displayed in the window, growing another inch until next year…

Wishing you all a wonderful, safe holiday filled with love!

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