Archives for December 2014

A Year Without A Christmas Tree

medium_5250149045-1Being grateful for this year’s conifer

He was there to fix the clogged shower, part of owning a house is you get to know the plumber or electrician. Somehow between talking shower heads and the weather he shared his story. His daughter, a drug addict who just delivered a baby would rehabilitate only to spiral back into addiction. He was burned out from years of providing help which only led to disappointment. When he left he said, “I haven’t had a Christmas tree in three years.” His words washed over me, especially the part about the Christmas tree.

It takes effort to put up a Christmas tree, whether artificial or real. A tree is the embodiment of the holiday season for Christians. A shelter for gifts and, though pagan, it serves as a symbol of hope, renewal and celebration. It’s hard to get on that train when you are suffering.

Growing up our family had a year without a Christmas tree. This was the year my mother died and my father declared we wouldn’t have a tree. I held it against him; we were already wrestling with so much loss, and not having a tree set me off on a path of ambivalence about Christmas trees. As fate would have it, I married a man who has to cart home the largest tree in the nursery. Our first year of marriage and pretty much every year thereafter I’ve struggled to fill the tree. I’ve done it all from silk poinsettias to a more sparse look the first years. We’ve now accumulated enough ornaments to trim a large tree. I can now understand my father’s resistance to putting up a tree that year, perhaps he thought it was a symbol of inappropriate celebration or the task was too laborious. The labor part I get, since I’m married we’ve had lots of tree challenged moments like the time we thought the tree was crooked when the stand was defective, we replaced the tree and all its accessories only to find another “leaning tower of tree” or the time we strung lights around a seven foot tree to find we couldn’t plug it in because we were left with the female end. We’ve also had years with “tree blackouts” you know how one light goes out and there goes all the lights or the year the cat found shelter smack center in the middle of the tree and wouldn’t get out.

It’s taken a long time, but our tree has grown into a tradition, well despite the lights, that I look forward to. I treasure childhood ornaments and those that my kids have made through the years. For a long time, I carried that treeless year with me and have learned to appreciate the freedom to celebrate. I’ve learned as life moves on that the unexpected can hit like a ton of bricks but the indefatigable human spirit never ceases to amaze me. All we have to do is read the first few pages of the newspaper to be struck down by despair and we all share heartbreak of some form but somehow there’s always that glimmer of hope, that persists, even when we think it’s not there. So I hope my plumber finds his tree again and I’m going to be more grateful for this year’s conifer, despite what happens to the lights, and what it represents – time with family, faith and enduring hope.

photo credit: <a href=”“>Bruce A Stockwell</a> via <a href=”“>photopin</a> <a href=”“>cc</a>


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