It was our second Christmas, alone, just the children and me. And though an aching newness about this turn in our life still flavored our days, that isn't what made this Christmas memorable.
With four wiggly little bundles of anticipation, each under seven years of age, whether or not I felt up to celebrating the holiday never even got the option to pose its question. Christmas was on.
Of necessity, the decorations would be bare-boned-simple this year. I'd hunted nooks and crannies, checked pockets, looked under cushions and behind dressers, and prayed. In the end, I'd scrounged together enough pennies, nickels and quarters to purchase a Christmas tree about a week before Christmas.
Though I'd awakened one morning years earlier to city-dweller-living, I still found it difficult to purchase a store-bought tree at Christmas time. This year didn't change that. Even after nearly two decades, childhood remembrances of piney perfume and crunchy carpet underfoot too strongly colored my memory with glittering jewels beyond price. I had determined to plant similar memories in my own children.
So, jingling-pennies in my pocket, the kids and I poured ourselves into our little blue car, hunted out the one Christmas tree farm I knew of in the big city, and flowed along on the stream of Christmas-carol-melody only children can orchestrate.
Being so close to Christmas, the tree farm was awfully bare, the remaining offerings pretty bleak when we arrived. But one look at my kids quickly clued me in children look with different eyes. Their faces were aglow, even the toddler's in the stroller.
What a sight we must have made. Me, huffing and puffing behind a four-wheeled stroller I attempted to propel through inches-deep dirt, a three-year-old attached to my right belt hoop, a five-year-old attached to my left, and a seven-year-old trailblazer out in front.
At last, after looking and looking, debating and debating, we found just the tree the kids wanted. It may have looked sad to me, but to those closest to my heart, it was magical.
The magic carried us through the trip home, the little Christmas-carol-voices raised in unique harmony, and the hot-chocolate-enhanced tree decorating. Who cared about the smudges on the paper decorations or the glitter covering more carpet than tiny-handed cutouts? Treasure was in the making.
Before we knew it bedtime came around, and one-by-one each little bed upstairs soon cradled its cherished occupant. Prayers sailed heavenward from happy hearts. And with the lights finally turned off on the day, I collapsed downstairs on the couch embraced in my own reflections.
But the day had proved too much for my three-year-old daughter. Dreams of sugarplums may have danced through the sleep of her brothers, but her mind was filled with the Christmas tree.
Maybe like all things magical she feared she'd open her eyes in the morning to find the tree had disappeared. For shortly after I sat down to rest, little tip-toe-footsteps danced cautiously down the stairs. Halfway down the stairwell a blonde head suddenly appeared peering intently over the railing, further and further. Just as the words, "Be careful," left my lips, it happened.
She tumbled, head-over-heels, into the evergreen bower. For a wink of time, the tree stood valiantly, bedecked with its new burden. Then, in slow motion, daughter-ladened-Christmas-tree tumbled gracefully to the floor.
She shed buckets of tears. Tears for the Christmas tree and its magic now askew. Once I'd righted the tree, however, my daughter traipsed off to bed confident that mommies had a magic all their own.
Christmas morning arrived without any more mishaps. And as we sat around the tree together in celebration, my daughter looked at me with a secret smile in her eyes. Every Christmas since, she catches my eye and we smile in remembrance.
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DeAnna Brooks (December 5, 2007)
Having raised four children, I live now in Texas. Mostly my writing is a sojourn with God. I find myself ever planted in Eden, glorying in its abundant and rich communion with the Almighty. Or, I am looking back, with longing. And the sojourn continues.