Countdown

“The Christmas tree is a symbol of love, not money. There’s a kind of glory to them when they’re all lit up that exceeds anything all the money in the world could buy.”
Andy Rooney, Andy Rooney: 60 Years of Wisdom and Wit

December 15th. Ten days until Christmas. Don’t you remember how time seemed to slow down so much after this day?

I remember my Mom giving me an old calendar to cross off the days as they passed. Oh, that seemed like such a huge responsibility to me.

Did I make my mark in the morning as the day began or in the evening after supper? When I made my X, did I cross off the whole day with a complete X? If I split my X, making one part of the X in the morning and the other side of the X that evening, I had something to look forward to as the day wore on.

Heaven help that sister who completed that X before I did! Those very loud fights nearly cost me my calendar more than once!

I remember at least one Christmas when we did not have a tree as Christmas drew near. The year I’m remembering was when I was in third grade. This was a tough year for me because there were several changes. One of the biggest changes was moving from our house on first street to our real house up the hill on fourth street. This move changed our lives a lot–we now had our own home–which was important to my Dad–owning a house and no longer being a “renter.” With my more “mature” eyes, I’m thinking this probably put some strain on the budget, which was always described to me as “tight.” One other part of this move was the fact my teacher was now my next door neighbor. I’m not sure why that was so hard for me–maybe because I was young, unable to separate Mrs. Stoakes role as my teacher from Mrs. Stoakes, my neighbor.

It was the tradition at that time to have a Christmas tree in each classroom. I can see this tree very well–a short needled tree standing on a wooden cross that’d been nailed into the base of the tree. For all the time the tree had been in our classroom, this tree had not had any water. More and more of the dried needles surrounded the tree daily, poking your arms as you walked by on the way to sharpen pencils.

The last day of school, after the Christmas party, the trees from each classroom were offered to families in need of a tree. Mrs. Stoakes made the offer and no one spoke up. I was old enough to understand that speaking up for this tree would put a certain light on not just me, but my family. But…we did not have a tree and I’d overheard that we could not afford a tree this year. My little kid mind was working fast and furiously.

That was a big tree, how would I get it home? Dad would be so angry with me if he had to take off work just to come up to the school to pick up a tree. But, if we didn’t have a tree, would Santa come? Oh, come on, did I really believe that Santa story anymore? No. Who could still believe that old crazy story? But…what…

As the debate went on in my head, one of the other kids spoke up and that option for a tree was gone.

Even though we did not have a tree, we had presents from our relatives stacking up on one of the end tables. Having those wrapped presents made me believe  Santa would definitely come–tree or no tree. I was so sad about that–a feeling I did not attempt to disguise from my Dad. I just knew he could not be serious and I never missed a chance to question him about the status of our tree.

The days marched on. It was December 23–Christmas Eve Eve. No tree. I gave up–my hope is gone–we would not have a tree this year.

Christmas Eve morning arrived. It was cold and cloudy–maybe we’d have a white Christmas. As I walked out of the bedroom and towards the living room, I could see colors reflected on the window pane–there in front of the three of us was a brightly decorated and lighted Christmas tree.

I will always remember the joy of seeing that tree. I think having my prayer for a tree answered that year was the best present ever.

“This Christmas mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love, and then speak it again.”
Howard W. Hunter

I am…

B…simply being…

Love and peace to Y’all.

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