You might call it serendipity or the luck of the draw.

I say it’s pure Christmas magic.

I had been looking for a small, white Christmas tree to put in my kitchen and had scoured the stores with my sister, Jane, and friend, Evalyn, during Thanksgiving vacation, but never found the right one.

What precipitated my wanting a kitchen Christmas tree is that, a couple of years ago, I read about a couple who placed a little Christmas tree in their kitchen and loved it so much that when it came time to take it down, they couldn’t bear to do so, so they kept it there all year-round.

We always decorate a live tree in our living room, and I had been intrigued by the idea of having another, artificial one in the kitchen.

But I’m particular. It had to be small, sparkly, white and not too garish.

While Christmas shopping with Evalyn and Jane, we kept an eye out for little white trees. The ones we saw were just not right. Either they were too large, too small, too chintzy-looking or just plain scrawny.

The last weekend in November, my husband and I visited the Sukeforth Family Festival of Trees at the Hathaway Creative Center in Waterville. It was a new venue for the Sukeforths, who typically hold a pig roast in Solon annually to raise money for local charities.

This year, they decided to ask businesses, organizations and individuals to decorate and donate trees for the festival, complete with gifts, so visitors could buy little tickets and place them in buckets next to trees they wanted to win.

The festival was awesome with 59 beautiful trees adorned with baubles and lights. Some carried themes. For instance, there were hunting related trees and those related to cooking, books, wine and toys. The trees had lots of gifts under them, and winners got to take not only the trees, but also all the gifts. Some trees and accompanying gifts were valued at more than $2,000.

We attended the festival the day before it ended. Hundreds of people traipsed through the spacious room at the Hathaway Center, a former shirt factory, to admire the trees. Thousands were expected to visit over two weekends.

We paid $2 each to get in, and I bought $20 worth of drawing tickets, which were 50 cents each. While Phil was reluctant to play the game, I basically shoved a strip of tickets into his hands and told him to go and have fun. He ended up enjoying the experience, stuffing tickets into any bucket that accompanied trees flanked with tool-related gifts. Some of the displays were extraordinary, such as Silver Street Tavern’s tree made from wine bottles with various tiers. The bottom and largest tier contained full bottles of wine. Beside the tree was a fireplace crafted with lights representing fire. It was lovely really.

Most of the trees were very tall — at least 7 feet — and loaded with gifts.

I perused the rows of trees, admiring them and placing tickets in Silver Street Tavern’s bucket, as well as some others.

And then I saw it.

The. Most. Beautiful. White. Tree. In. The. World.

It was small — a 4-foot-tall, white, sparkling tree with wide pink and blue ribbons curled around it and tiny pink, blue and green lights illuminating the most charming owl ornaments hanging from its branches.

It was dwarfed by all the gigantic trees around it, but it stood out like a gem, sitting there all cheerful and whimsical and magical.

Adorned with effervescent blue and green flowers made in the shape of poinsettia leaves, the tree was donated by Downtown Smoothie, one of my favorite places in Waterville. The shop makes healthful smoothies with all sorts of fresh fruits and yogurts and other good stuff.

From its branches hung lots of gift cards to the shop, as well as coupons and little packages of super foods that can be added to drinks. Under the tree was a pretty pink box filled with assorted treasures, including a whole pineapple, oranges, apples and a snack pack with dried cherries, raisins and nuts.

I was mesmerized.

“I want this tree!” I whispered. “It’s my little white tree!”

I placed a few tickets in the bucket, which did not appear to be as full as the others. After another stroll through the sea of trees, I added a couple more.

Once back home, Phil and I discussed whether it was optimistic to think we could win a tree, what with all the thousands of people who visited the festival and entered the drawings. He reasoned that it was possible for me to win the white tree, as many people probably opted to place tickets in the buckets next to 7-foot trees flanked with expensive gifts.

We went about our business, and on Sunday night, the time the drawing was to take place, we heard nothing.

And then my phone rang. It was nearly 8 p.m.

“Amy?” a cheerful voice asked. “This is Rita from the Festival of Trees. You won a tree!”

“Oh,” I replied, breathless. “Which one?”

“Downtown Smoothie!” she declared.

I would have screeched, had she not sounded so civil and nice. I did let out a squeal, however, once I hung up the phone.

On Monday after work, I drove over to the Hathaway Center to collect my tree. A big, tall man with white hair and wearing suspenders offered to carry it out to my vehicle. He kind of resembled Santa Claus, now that I think of it.

I lugged the tree into the house, set it up in the kitchen as the cats watched curiously, and plugged in the lights.

I exhaled. This perfectly dainty, exquisite, shimmering white tree was perfect, and it was all mine.

Phil calls it a “girlie” tree. I nicknamed it “Little White.”

In any case, it’s just what I wanted and I couldn’t be happier. Thanks, Downtown Smoothie and Rita, at the Festival of Trees.

Oh, and Santa, of course. I mustn’t forget him.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter for 27 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


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