Once upon a spring a little sapling grew in a grove in the forest glen. "When I grow up," the little sapling told the older trees around him, "I want to be a Christmas tree."
"You are not a pine or a spruce or a fir, you are an aspen," the mother tree gently explained to the little sapling, "So you will never be a Christmas tree."
Spring turned to summer and the little aspen tree grew stronger and taller. "When I grow up," the little aspen tree said, "I want to be a Christmas tree reaching straight and tall."
"When you grow up, you will indeed be tall, but your trunk will be twisted and gnarled," said the Mother Tree. "Your will have nooks and knots for birds and squirrels to make their homes, but you will never be a Christmas tree."
Summer passed, and the nights grew longer and colder. "Someday I want to be covered in lights all bright and gold," dreamed the young aspen tree, "Just like a Christmas tree."
"Soon you will be crowned with leaves as golden as the sun," said the Mother Tree, "but you will never be a Christmas tree."
Winter approached and the young aspen tree's golden leaves turned to brown and started to fall. "When I am grown I want to be a Christmas tree with white, downy snow piling up on my full, green branches," the Aspen Tree declared.
"Your branches will always be bare in winter except for the buds awaiting spring," pronounced the Mother Tree. "Your bark will be as white as new fallen snow, but you won't ever be a Christmas tree."
The year passed on and many more followed. The little aspen tree grew tall and all happened just as the Mother Tree had predicted. He loved being an aspen tree. Providing refuge for the animals of the forest in his stable branches made him feel proud and strong. He knew that his golden foliage was a greater treasure than any possessed by any king. And he even relished his winter repose while he lay dormant awaiting spring. As the tree matured he remembered with fondness his youthful ambitions, realizing that by just being himself he had fulfilled his greatest purpose.
One December day, the sounds of a family broke the forest silence. "Lets find one that is twisty," said the father, tall and dark.
"But not too big," said one with autumn-maple hair.
"Make sure its bark is white," directed the mother with a cooing baby bundled in her arms.
"This one has lots of branches," said the oldest son.
"Can I use the saw?" asked the littlest boy, tromping knee deep in snow.
The aspen tree shook as the boys worked the saw at the base of his trunk. "I suppose I am getting old, he thought to himself. "I will no longer protect the birds and squirrels, and the only golden colors I will wear again will be the flames in the fire."
The tree heaved a sigh as he was lifted into the back of a truck, travelled down the twisty canyon rode, and was unloaded in front of a house. The children ran in through the front door while the father got to work with the saw. Soon the tree felt himself being carried through the front door and propped up in a stand. He perked up a little as the mother wrapped strings of twinkly lights around his trunk while the children hung silver balls and snowflakes on his bare branches.
"This is the prettiest Christmas tree we've ever had!" exclaimed the father. "Let's open the window for everyone to see."
"Could it be true?" the aspen tree wondered as he regarded his reflection in the window glass. He heard the children's laughter and felt their small hands pat his bark, and the tree knew he had become everything he had ever wanted. In all the world there was no aspen tree--or Christmas tree-- happier than he.