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.