I was 44 when I celebrated my very first Christmas. I prodded on with no idea of what I was doing. My boss, at the time, presented me my very first ornament. I still have it to this day; a lovely bell with pretty green and red ribbon. I was very pleased. I took it home and hung it on a plant; admired it and thought I was pretty darn cool. Of course, I knew the obvious, presents were involved. I went out and bought gifts for my daughter and her family and shipped the packages all off to Virginia. I think I had more fun choosing and wrapping then anything else.
Christmas Day came and I was out of town on business. I guess I was feeling somewhat overwhelmed with all the changes and felt somewhat relieved that I could just sit comfortably in my motel room and watch television. I was still struggling with the ‘so-called guilt’ that I inappropriately placed upon my self. As excited as I was to be part of something so bright and beautiful, I still felt like I was doing something wrong.
The next Christmas was the very best of my life. I finally had custody of my youngest daughter, Sarah. Sarah was 15 at the time and when Christmas rolled around she asked if we were going to celebrate? It sounded like a good idea to me and so we set out on the adventure of our life. I got out my bell and hung it on my plant. Sarah just looked at me and said, “Mom, I think that is supposed to be on a tree.” So off to PayLess we went in search of a tree. I found a little 18” tree with to cross boards on the bottom to keep it upright. We were so excited; we bought tinsel, ornaments, lights and everything we could think to buy. Once at home, we propped it up on a little round table. It took us all of 30 minutes to decorate. To us, it looked like the most beautiful tree in the world. Since we knew very few people outside of our previous religious structure, we decided to buy our own gifts. Off shopping we went, joyfully purchasing gifts for ourselves and each other. We had more fun wrapping and ended up laughing so hard our sides hurt.
I couldn’t wait to tell every one at work about our tree. One of the guys said to keep it wet. I did; I went home everyday and misted the tree. After all, I had always misted my house plants. By Christmas morning, all the needles were falling off. The tree was brown and looking pretty pathetic. It did not dampen our Christmas spirit; we opened our gifts as if we didn’t have a clue as to what was in each well wrapped package. We ate our Christmas dinner. I had fixed Tacos because we didn’t know that there was a Christmas traditional dinner. We just figured we would fix our favorite. By noon, we had cleaned up the wrappings and dumped the tree. It has always been a favorite shared memory for Sarah and me.
We gave up tinsel and now we have ornaments that have special meaning. I have learned that you put the tree in water so that it stays fresh. My trees are now larger than 18”. My friend said I celebrated Christmas in degrees. Recently, I had a boyfriend who didn’t want to bother with a tree. I was surprised to realize how much I missed the joy of it all. No matter what happens, Sarah and I will always have fond memories of the single ornament and the little tree.
Susan Banner Todd
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