“My Favorite Christmas Tree,” Dec. 6, 2016

What was your favorite Christmas tree? I’ve had lots. Some I liked more than others.

My parents split up when I was 3. That Christmas Eve, my mother put me to bed and said, “Stay.” When I heard a knock at the door, I crept out, hoping to see Santa. Instead, there stood my dad, holding a bag and a bush.

“Brought you a tree,” he said, showing the bush to my mother.

“Got one,” she said, nodding at a fir we had decorated earlier.

“Well, now you got two.”

He propped the bush in the corner and pulled out the contents of the bag: A doll for my sister, a dollhouse for me. He set them on the floor by the bush, then turned to leave.

“Tell my girls I said merry Christmas,” he said.

After my mother went to bed, I crept out again, stole some tinsel and a few ornaments off the fir and hung them, just so, on the bush.

I wish you could’ve seen it.

The Christmas I was 10, my mother bought a fake tree. It looked like a tv antenna covered with Brillo Pads. Two days after Christmas, I went to visit my grandmother on her farm and told her about the fake tree. She shook her head and said, “Your mama works too hard.”

Next morning, she woke me early. “Look,” she said, parting a curtain. “The Lord decorated a Christmas tree just for you.”

Snow had fallen overnight. The sun was so bright I had to squinch my eyes. Then I saw it.

At the top of a snow-covered hemlock sat the reddest bird I’d ever seen: A cardinal, singing its heart out, “Cheer, cheer, cheer!”

I wish you could’ve heard it.

When my three children were growing up, every December (on a day when their dad, the Coach, didn’t have a game) we’d go to a Christmas tree farm, argue for an hour picking out a tree, then cut it down and haul it home.

We did that for 25 years, until the Christmas before the Coach died with cancer. That year, while the Coach napped and the kids shopped, I hurried to a tree lot, bought a lopsided pine, dragged it in the house and set it up. Then I started cooking.

After the kids got home, I went upstairs to help the Coach get ready for dinner. When we came down, the kids had pulled out all our old familiar ornaments and transformed the lopsided pine into a lopsided work of art.

“Not bad,” grinned the Coach. “Finest tree I’ve ever seen.”

Three weeks later he was gone. I kept that tree up until spring.

I wish you could’ve been there to help me take it down.

Ten years ago, after moving with my new husband to the desert outside Las Vegas, I rolled my eyes at his idea to decorate a “Christmas cactus.” So we bought a real fir at a tree lot, set it in water and lit it up.

A week later, the needles fell off. We got another one. Same result. Finally, we bought a fake fir. Every Christmas, I drag it out of the garage, straighten its crumpled limbs and light it up.

Not this year. Last week I had surgery to repair a bad ankle. Instead of my usual decorating, I thought I’d get my husband to string lights on my wheelchair. But today, I heard a glorious sound: The screech of a metal tree stand being dragged from the garage to the living room.

My husband was sweaty, but proud of himself. “Come tell me where to put stuff,” he said.

So I did. The creche went on the hutch. Candles on the mantel. Then he climbed up a ladder and placed the angel, just so, at the top of the tree.

I wish you could’ve seen him.

We’ll save a few things until the kids arrive for Christmas _ snowflakes and holly and feathered redbirds that 5-year-old Henry will clip on all the branches he can reach.

It will be my favorite Christmas tree. So far.

The past is for memories. The future is for dreams. But the present is the time to celebrate the most blessed gift of all: Life.

Here’s wishing you and yours a joyous Christmas and your favorite Christmas tree. So far.

Comments

  1. B. J. Morris says:

    I have the feelings that you wrote. Because it seems that every Christmas is my best and favorite. So far.

  2. Sheila Torres says:

    Your Christmas tree memories are heart warming. I wish you and your family the happiest of Christmas ❤️ And a speedy recovery for you!

  3. Cynthia G says:

    Merriest of Christmas to you and yours and a happy, healthy New Year!

  4. Jo says:

    Great column as always! I enjoy reading about you and your family.

    My husband passed too just 2 weeks weeks after Christmas. We all have our memories that bring us comfort, especially during the holidays.

    Prayed for you today. Hoping you will healing quickly so you can be on the road again, to help bring cheer wherever you go through your stories.

    Have a very Merry Christmas & a blessed New Year!

  5. Paula says:

    You make us all so happy.

    I wish you could feel us…

  6. Wilma King says:

    Oh Sharon sweet friend of like hearts. I read your column every week and so many times like today, I end up with tears in my eyes and joy in my soul. I also have lost my husband who I adored and now miss with all my being, but I have lovely reasons to be happy and continue on this journey called life. Children, grandchildren, family, a plethora of friends, and the greatest gift of all Jesus. I was so distressed when your syndication deal fell through, but I am so happy now that you are back in our newspaper The Winston-Salem Journal. Keep writing your columns that bring so much inspiration and happy thoughts and yes some sad memories that are precious.

  7. Hortense Arflin says:

    I look forward to reading your column every week in our local paper. Keep up the good work. May you and your family have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

  8. Jackie Jones says:

    Merry Christmas! I love hearing about your life! It is as if you are a long lost friend, talking after being away for a while. Have a wonderful Christmas and take care of yourself as you heal. Blessings, Jackie (your Salisbury, N.C. Friend)

  9. Gorgeous writing.

  10. Sharon Godwin says:

    Sharon, I like thousands of others, really enjoy your columns. They speak to me now more than ever as I lost my husband and soul mate this past April. He had a massive heart attack and was gone in a matter of minutes. Thank you so much for your encouraging words today about the past, present and future. I needed to hear that as I struggle with figuring out how to live this new life that I’ve been thrown in to. It’s so comforting to hear from someone that has been there.
    Thank you again, and I hope you have a very, Merry Christmas!

  11. Patsy Styers says:

    I look forward to your column every week and have for years. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your lovely family.

  12. Jan randolph says:

    So many of us gals love you Sharon! Please never stop writing for us! Have a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones and the babe in the manger! ( I met you once in Nebraska a long time ago! It was in a catholic high school in grand island!)

  13. Dear Sharon!

    Christmas is my favorite time of year. Our entire house is decorated like a winter wonderland. We save the best for last, decorating the tree. Every limb on our fake teee is filled with love, joy and special ornaments. I have enjoyed all the trees we have had over the years.

    You are an inspiration. Your columns are such a joy and you make me smile.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

    Kindest Regards,
    Juliann McPadden

  14. Kate Sciacca says:

    This time I laughed out loud… “tv antenna with Brillo pads” (hey, those were hot in the 60’s!) and cried too… “I wish you could have helped me take it down” (I wish that too) – thanks for sharing your talents with us –
    Continuing prayers for a speedy recovery 🙂

  15. Peggy Davis says:

    Dear Sharon,
    Your columns are a joy to read. I worked with your husband at Monterey High and have fond memories of him. Please keep those columns coming. Merry Christmas to you and your family.
    Peggy Davis

  16. Nancy Rambo says:

    I read healing and love in your post.

    Love your column

    My ex husband moved out CHRISTMAS Eve day. It left a lasting image for kids 18-21 at the time but it was a blessing for all of us as life moved on

    Merry Christmas

  17. Merry Christmas, Sharon. Loved reading this story. As I always do! As we get older the memories are more precious .

  18. Taska Maybry says:

    Merry Christmas to you from South Carolina.

  19. Pam Craddock says:

    Dear Sharon, I have read your columns for years! I have laughed and cried with you. Your column always helps me in some way. I have been blessed with a good life and now am enjoying being a Grandma to a beautiful 5 year old girl and handsome twin grandsons aged 2years. These grands just make life beautiful every day and renew the joy in doing the simplest things! My husband and I enjoy good health in our early 70’s, keep active and stay busy in our community. I know I will continue to enjoy your articles for a long time to come. Blessings to you and your family with warm wishes for a wonderful Christmas and the very best in the New Year!

  20. Betty McNallo says:

    I’m not a great writer, but you inspire me to write! Christmas is very special! I’m 76, husband 82, who just had 2 stints put in his heart in Aug, doing well! My Dad was a lover of Christmas, he passed at the age of 54 of cardiac arrest! we buried him 2 days before Christmas in 1971. He loved Christmas! We never had a fake tree and sometimes we had to tie it into the corner as it sometimes was lop sided! but always beautiful! Dad would take me and my 2 sisters to get the tree sometimes in very deep snow! FUN! I married 1st so the tree was decorated with many years of ornaments, both bought and made by us and my children for Grandpa and Grandma for their tree! That Christmas without Dad was hard, but I know in my heart he would not have wanted us to not have a tree or presents under the tree! Have a wonderful Christmas with your family, and Merry Christmas to any and all of your readers who may read this. Betty McNall from Idaho

  21. Beverly Davisson says:

    Merry Christmas to you & your, Make those Memories !!!!

  22. Judy R says:

    You always make me smile! Never stop writing, you are a joy❤️

  23. Donna Phillips says:

    You make my heart so happy with your stories. I wish I were able to tell things like you do. You are a beautiful lady and inside and out. I hope all your family appreciates how you have preserved not only your past but theirs as well in your stories. It is so important to do that. I hope your ankle continues to heal and you keep the stories coming for many many more years.

  24. Chris Hetherington says:

    What a wonderful column. I remember several memorable trees, but I can’t describe them like you do. Merry Christmas to one of my favorite writers.

  25. Vanessa LeClear says:

    I love your thoughts on the past, present and future! I struggle to live in the moment, but it’s really the only place we can. I pray you heal quickly. Have a wonderful Christmas!

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