As the holiday countdown accelerates, Christmas trees are on the run. Or more precisely, on the roll—in shopping carts and wheelbarrows—and on the lug, by hand. Streaks of deep green dot the dull gray landscape as the trees move by. I’ve seen them slung over shoulders like children, tucked under arms like medieval spears, and propped up like commuters on the subway. The doors open and the tree steps off, a memory of pine needles on the train floor. Sometimes the whole family chips in. Parents hug the end like goal posts while a couple of little kids lift the saggy middle. The whole street smiles at the effort. A grand behemoth is a joyful burden. Ten blocks home or five flights up can loom like eternity. But it’s an essential New York tradition—the tree must go on.
There they are, lined up like sentinels behind the scaffolding. I am always excited when the Christmas trees come to town, even if I never buy or own one, because they transform barren concrete sidewalks into magical tiny forests. Every time I walk by the fragrant firs, pines and spruces, I am transported from grey New York to my own private Narnia. Arriving around Thanksgiving and lasting until Christmas Eve, the seasonal trees elevate mundane places and turn routine chores into an adventure. You never know who might run out for a tube of toothpaste to a 24-hour drugstore at 2 a.m. and come home instead with a ten-foot spruce. And I can’t help wondering, are these truly just trees, or maybe—for those with special vision—a line of deep green uniformed soldiers guarding a dark red castle? Each time I walk by, I breathe deeply and stand a little straighter. You never know who might be watching.