A story of Christmas Past
I stare with disappointment at the tree in our 1958 living room that we decorated two days ago. It looks utterly pitiful — like it’s made from Tinkertoys. The flat-needled branches are sparse, and it has no fragrance. I face the ugly truth: I do not like this tree. I fight growing disappointment with the whole season, wishing it would just be over.
Just then Mother comes home from work, wrestling a huge spruce through the door. It’s almost as wide as it is tall. “Nobody else at school wanted this, so I brought it home,” she explains. Its fragrance instantly fills the house. In meer minutes my sister and I strip the puny tree and the lush new one stands in its place. Santa’s crew of elves couldn’t decorate a tree better or faster than we do. When we finish, we catch our breath in awe. The tree glows with more than colored lights. It glows with Christmas Spirit. With joyful hearts, she and I load the record player and sing our hearts out.
The next day Daddy saws up the old tree and stuffs it in the fireplace. I’m torn at the seeming brutality of burning this poor tree because it wasn’t beautiful enough. I feel more than a little guilty at rejecting it for the sake of appearances. Then I look at the new one and relax —we didn’t deliberately go looking for it. It was a gift, a gift of abundance in this season of blessing. It was a gift of Christmas Spirit, something lacking in the first tree. This is the perfect Christmas tree, and I know it will never be matched in all my years.
“Thank you for yielding your place so gracefully,” I whisper into the flames, grateful that at least the meager tree can give us the gift of warmth to help us enjoy its replacement.
All these years later, I look at our dense, perfectly shaped artificial tree with vague disappointment, then realize it’s the best tree it can be. Not even a fresh tree could live up to the legendary Perfect Christmas Tree. “Thank you for giving us joy each year and being so dependable and easy to live with. And especially, thank you for not dropping needles all over the floor!”
This simple memoir story has become part of my Christmas Tradition, to be handed down through generations. Each year it seems to take on new meaning and become richer. Others read the story and find their own meaning. I’m glad of that, but primarily I wrote the story for myself. It’s a reminder of the day I realized something important as I sat in front of that fireplace. That day was a rite of passage. Each time I read the story, I learn the lessons of gratitude, compassion and purpose more deeply and fully, and the spirit of that lush, amazing replacement tree will always fill my heart.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone.
Write now: Take a few minutes and write about some meaningful Christmas memory – or some other holiday memory if your tradition celebrates another time. Keep this story and reflect on it each year. Edit as your understanding grows. Over the years it will become rich and deep, full of meaning and inspiration, primarily for you, but also for others.