One Little Tree

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Watercolor Painting

When I was at my mother’s house earlier this month, I was told the story of how they almost didn’t find her “Charlie Brown Christmas tree” when unpacking decorations. This little tree was made famous thanks to the Peanuts holiday special that’s been an annual tradition since before I was born. In it, Charlie Brown selects a rather meager natural tree instead of a colorful aluminum one for the school play. The popularity of the show and this little tree, ended the aluminum tree fad instantly and production was mostly stopped by 1967, just two years after the special aired. My mother’s version is not really a replica of the cartoon one by any stretch, but instead, a tiny tree with a few fiber optic branches. What struck me was that out of all of the wondrous decorations she has, this tiny humble tree was a must-have. My sister helped her search box after box, but when the thing isn’t lit it resembles a miniature dark green toilet brush and is therefore rather difficult to spot. Finally, via some holiday miracle, they found the tiny tree nestled at the bottom of the last box. I had missed all of this drama prior to arriving, and simply saw the tiny tree in its usual spot, sending earnest doses of cheer from the corner of the room. And I had to agree. It wouldn’t have been the same without it.

It’s funny how the smallest things become so incredibly important this time of year. We have tiny ornaments that get completely lost in our much larger and more massive tree. But, getting them out and seeing them once again each year is such a joy. Though many of the elements repeat themselves from house to house, the way each family decorates for Christmas is as unique as handwriting. It’s like entering a life-sized scrapbook of memories. Earlier this season, just before Thanksgiving, the large painting over our fireplace mantel came toppling to the floor. Philippe and I were upstairs at the time and the clatter was alarming, like Santa had decided to arrive early and had a bit of a crash landing. After securing it back in place, I was suddenly worried for our mantel decorations and told Philippe that I’d add them after we got back from visiting my family. The painting was still in place when we returned so I added our precious decorations. Then, while we were in the kitchen, we heard the crash. My heart sank. Yet, when I entered the room, the only thing the painting took down with it was the “L” votive of our Noël candles and it was perfectly unharmed. A second little miracle.

The glass of the painting, however, was completely shattered and is indeed much more expensive to replace. But, all I could think about was that little spared votive, and how much more it meant to me. The set wasn’t a family heirloom, but something we simply found on sale one year. That’s the transformative beauty of this season. It’s never about the price of things, but instead, those little unassuming things that have somehow managed to become priceless. Sometimes it’s the tradition of having something on display each year, and sometimes it’s just a feeling that words can’t quite describe. And as Christmas gets closer, I’m certainly excited about the coming gifts, but I would be remiss to ignore the gifts I already have. And sometimes, those can feel even more special. It’s hard to compete with those little things we’ve had for years that tell our unique and special story. And that’s why the holidays don’t really require much to enjoy properly. Sometimes, all it takes is one little tree.

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Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Watercolor Painting Sketchbook Detail
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31 Comments
  1. Karen Fortier 9 months ago

    That is what I want, a Charlie Brown tree, thanks Charlie! I keep saying that I am going to get a potted Norfolk pine and some little red ornaments and that will be our tree going forward. I did have one back in college. That my carved santas made by family, a few Christmas cards and I’m good. 👍😊😉

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 9 months ago

      hehe! Yeah… this one seems like much lower maintenance! 😃💕Sounds like the perfect assortment! Just the things that really matter!

  2. Mary Roff 9 months ago

    Love your little tree! I’ve always loved Charlie Brown Christmas trees and my husband and I always made a point of bringing one home a tree that would probably be passed over by everyone else…and, I always thought it looked beautiful full of lights and glittering ornaments… no matter how sparse its branches or crooked its trunk.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 9 months ago

      Thanks so much, Mary! 😃💕Yeah, the lights, glitter, and love can always make the most unassuming tree seem magical!

  3. Priscilla DeConti 9 months ago

    Charlie Brown’s tree!! I love it!!

  4. Loan Anh Pham 9 months ago

    It’s awesome tree, Charlie🥰. A good suggestion for my first christmas tree. Though festive spirit of christmas comes everywhere, I’ve still felt I’m far from Christmas.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 9 months ago

      Thanks, Loan! 😃💕 The glittering lights are universal, I think. A symbol of how our own sparks of creativity connect us all across the globe!

  5. Sandra Strait 9 months ago

    I love your little Charlie Brown tree! Hopefully, you’ll be able to re-frame your painting and find a safer place to hang it.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 9 months ago

      Thanks, Sandra! 😃💕 Yeah… that painting didn’t want to be there. Probably just a sign that we should replace it with something Philippe or I made instead. hehe

  6. Lisa Ann Ulibarri 9 months ago

    Love it!!!! l grew up with the snoopy comics and shows, so extra “happies”!!! 🙂

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 9 months ago

      Yay! Glad this made you extra happy, Lisa! 😃💕 Yeah… I grew up with this comics as well and they were always smile bringers!

  7. mlaiuppa 9 months ago

    These are the sorts of sentimental memories you cannot manufacture. They simply happen at random. That is why they are so endearing and precious to us.

    In our family it is the chocolate ball. Or maybe it’s just for me. It is a medium size mercury glass ball that is about 65 years old. It used to be red but back in the day when the lights on the tree were large heavy glass colored incandescents that burned really hot, this ball was hung too close to a bulb and was burned a dark brown matte chocolate color. My Mother hated it and wouldn’t hang it but my Dad is …. economical… so would not allow it to be tossed. Around age 12 I found it and delighted in this chocolate ball. I was only allowed to hang it in the back and I have. It’s enough just to know it’s there.

    I think every family has votive candles or a chocolate ball, a tablecloth, a book that is read, a recipe that is made, something that may seem small but for them represents the holidays. Sometimes you don’t even know what it is until you almost lose it.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 9 months ago

      Oh my goodness I adore your story! 😃💕 Yay to the chocolate ball! What a fabulous holiday tradition! And so true… we rarely know what’s most important to us until that moment when it’s almost gone.

  8. Gary Middleton 9 months ago

    I really like this Charlie.

  9. Robert J. Coleman 9 months ago

    That’s a true Charlie Brown Christmas tree! What wonderful, warm memories watching the film each year with my family. We have a few little decorations that we cherish, one a snowman my daughter made in the first grade. He is a toilet paper tube with cotton balls glued to it, and his face is made of bits of colored construction paper and glued on so that he looks drunk! We love to embarrass our daughter with it each year. It’s a family joke 42 years in the making and it works every year!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 9 months ago

      Thanks, Bob! 😃💕 Awww the toilet paper tube snowman sounds perfectly wonderful! And amazing that it’s 42 years old… what a fun tradition!

  10. Lisa 9 months ago

    I was quite upset the year my mother decided to go with all blue glass ornaments on the tree rather than the multitude of colors I had grown up with. And I wasn’t even living there any more. We are funny creatures that way. We can leave and change and get on with life, but what was left behind had better stay the same. Lol Not going to happen.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 9 months ago

      hehe… so true, Lisa! 😃💕 Tradition is not to be trifled with! I felt the same when my mother changed things up a bit. The sameness is what makes the season so magical!

  11. Lori C 9 months ago

    It is darling! We have this plastic talking snowman. A dear old friend of mine gave it to me when my son was born. It does not fit into my vintage decor, but because she gave it to me, it warms my heart. It normally stands by the little tree in my son’s room. Since my son no longer puts a tree in his room 🙁 he still sets the snowman in his room. “Have you seen Santa? Brrrrr it’s cold outside.”

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 9 months ago

      Thanks, Lori! 😃💕hehe… that talking snowman sounds wonderful! I love those little returning characters that come back to herald in the season! And I can’t wait for Santa to arrive!!

  12. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 9 months ago

    Another of your family stories that touches my heart, Charlie. We don’t celebrate Christmas at our house but we do celebrate with friends and family. I always enjoy seeing their decorated trees, their Santa tchotchkes in their usual places, the sounds of Christmas music throughout the house, the savory smells of holiday dinner. What really made me gasp this year was hearing from a friend who told me that his little girls (Catholic) were so excited to come to our Chanukah celebration later this month. I had no idea that they looked forward to lighting menorahs with us and playing with dreidles. It is the little things that really mean so much, whether it’s a very tiny Christmas tree lighting up the night or very little children reflecting the joy of the season.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 9 months ago

      Aww I love your story Sharon! 😃💕 I’m convinced that the holidays are just something awesome. No matter what you celebrate, there’s so much love, light, and family there that it brings everyone together!

  13. Linda Calverley 9 months ago

    I’ve learned something today, I didn’t know what a Charlie Brown tree was.

  14. smzang 9 months ago

    Charlie says, “That’s the transformative beauty of this season. It’s never about the price of things, but instead, those little unassuming things that have somehow managed to become priceless.”

    For sure the truth!

    Everybody needs a Charlie Brown tree…it keeps us in touch with what’s really important.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 9 months ago

      Thanks, Sarah! 😃💕 Yay to the little things… they make the season so incredibly special!

  15. Dana Richards 9 months ago

    Your tree story is priceless,but I’m focused on that tumbling painting! I highly recommend that you replace the glass with plexiglass. It is lighter AND safer! You can go online to “American Frame” and order the exact size you need. They are the most reasonable & reliable place I’ve found. I’ve framed literally hundreds of paintings over the years and plexiglass has saved my life! Happy Holidays Charlie and thank you for making so many people happy in art!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 9 months ago

      Thanks so much, Dana! 😃💕Glad you enjoyed the story. Yeah… it was framed by a friend so we actually thought it was Plexiglass! Until the second time it fell and shattered. We’ll definitely be going that route on the replacement! 😉 Happy Holidays to you and yours!

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