“A True Tree Story,” Dec. 1, 2020

Christmas at our house begins when we drag a tree in the living room, and ends when we drag it back out. But while it’s with us, the tree will tell stories that we’ll remember for years to come.

On Sunday after Thanksgiving my husband and I split the last piece of pumpkin pie, then drove to a Christmas tree lot to join dozens of other folks in face masks all hoping to find the best Christmas tree ever.

Marriage—as some of you may have noticed—is built upon compromise. Fortunately, my husband and I agree on most truly important things: What to eat. When to eat it. Whose turn it is to cook and clean up.

On the rare occasion when we disagree, we try to decide by weighing just how much the matter means to each of us.

For example: He cares more than I ever will about which games to watch on TV. And I care a lot more than he does, apparently, about getting a Christmas tree that looks like a Christmas tree and not like a Christmas tree scrub brush.

He prefers the short, squatty variety that he can carry with one hand. I prefer a tree that I can look up to, one that’s at least a bit taller than I am, requires a strong back for lifting, but with no need for swearing.

After 15 years of marriage, we’ve agreed: He gets to pick games to watch on TV. I get to pick our Christmas tree. But this time, we chose a tree together.

“How ‘bout this one?” he said, pointing to the first tree we saw.

I laughed. It was perfect. More or less. We paid for it, tipped the kid who helped us stuff it in the car, drove home and dragged it inside.

Now it’s standing in our living room, listing badly, as if it had a little too much eggnog. Tomorrow, we’ll decorate it. But tonight, we’re sharing a pizza. Then he’ll watch a game on TV, and I’ll write a column.

Christmas trees create memories that will tell us, if we listen, the stories of our lives. My earliest Christmas tree memory is from when I was 6. My parents were divorced. My my mother had remarried. For some reason she decided we should get, not a real tree, but a fake monstrosity. It looked like a TV antenna covered in tin foil.

The day after Christmas, I boarded a Greyhound bus, waved goodbye to my mother and the ugly tree, and went to spend a lovely a week with my dad on his parents’ farm. When I told my grandmother about the fake tree, she said, “Your mother works too hard.”

The next morning, she woke me early. “Come see your Christmas tree,” she said, pointing to the window.

Snow was falling, turning everything white, except for one bright splash of red. At the top of a hemlock, a redbird sat perched, singing a birdsong version of “O Holy Night.”

I wish you could’ve heard it.

I remember other Christmas tree stories, too:

_ The Scotch pine where I found my 2-year-old hiding after he’d pulled all the bows off the gifts and stuck them on his head.

_ The Noble fir my kids and I decorated with their dad on his last Christmas to be with us, a few weeks before he lost a four-year, hard-fought battle with cancer.

_ The fake spruce I bought years later after I moved with my new husband to Las Vegas, and found that in the desert, fresh cut trees rarely last a week.

I wonder what story we’ll tell in years to come about the tree we brought home today? I hope it will be a story about a family that did its best in the midst of a pandemic to stay safe and well, to keep connected with friends and loved ones and to celebrate, like never before, the promise of Christmas: Life.

Our tree doesn’t look like much yet. But we’ll cover it with white lights, red birds and lots of memories. It will tell a good story that I’ll want to retell.

What story will your tree tell this Christmas? I’d love to hear it. Here’s hoping it will be your best Christmas story ever.


  1. Kate Sciacca says

    We’ve had a fake since 2011… that December the beloved spouse (you can do the acronym 😉) decided we HAD to have a tree. It was December 22nd to be exact… and we’d just moved to the real Nevada so he could begin work for the USGS. He’d started with them as a geologist in the early 80’s, but went to work in consulting for decades after that. We thought he’d end his career with the Survey (that didn’t happen, but it’s another story for a different day) – so here we were… moved from the home where most of our eight were raised and starting over again. I was having none of this ridiculous “tree” idea. Where would we put it? Boxes and furniture were everywhere. But the beloved spouse was adamant… so off he went with the two youngest to Home Depot. The only fakes left were the very pricey ones – and they managed to put down $500 and get the thing into his pickup. Praise God it was pre-lit – they found a spot in the dining room between boxes of China and baseball trophies and plugged it in. That was it. No ornaments, no garland, no little sparkle stars and no angel on top. But, we had a tree. And the bs and his boys were happy. I was too… but I didn’t let them know 😉 That tree has served us well (and we repeat the story of its beginnings every year) – and it has held up (for 500 bucks it better!). But this year, I needed the tree… a real one. So I stopped at a local lot on the way home from Raley’s and found the perfect one. A beauty of a tree that smells like Christmas… this year it was mama’s turn. Going to decorate this one with 44 years of memories… looking forward to it. Hope you and all the family have a blessed Christmas…. this Advent I’m taking the time to prepare for the Holy Day – May we all be blessed with His Life.

  2. Oh Christmas 🎄, oh Christmas 🎄…how we love thee! Mine has gone thru the years from real, to fake, and now to a wooden table top version. All ok as long as we acknowledge Christ Jesus is CHRISTmas!

  3. Vickie Garrison says

    I have always loved aluminum Christmas trees! My husband found a beautifully preserved one in an antique store and he begged the owner to sell it. After much persuasion and the right price, we brought that tree home and bought a new color wheel. Now it goes on my sun porch every Christmas, while a traditionally decorated one goes in the living room. That aluminum tree will probably be the only thing our children fight over when we pass on someday!

  4. Shirley Thacker says

    My husband didn’t understand my love of Christmas trees. Our first tree was decorated and Christmas Eve began calmly until I burst into tears as the darkness covered the windows causing the tree to twinkle. The tree was beautiful! He begged to know what was wrong…it would be the first year that I would not wake up at home. I was missing the traditions at home. He sat quietly pondering what to do as the evening was ending. I had dried up the tears and trying to be festive as a finish wrapping presents. I heard thumping and bumping coming down the hall. It was my husband pulling our mattress and blankets along behind him. He plopped it on the floor next to the tree. We started our own tradition of sleeping by the tree with lights on all night. We did that 30 of out 33 years before he passed away… Merry Christmas. Keep making memories!

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