This year we were smart; we bought our tree before the first snowfall. It’s short and fat, and my husband hardly broke a sweat stuffing it into the trunk. For a guy who’s used to suffering much in the tree lot, it all seemed too easy. But I reminded him of the big tree he picked out a few years ago, the one that fell down and broke half my ornaments. We’ve had bigger, he retorted. Remember the Emily Street house? I didn’t answer. That house had vaulted ceilings, and the sky was literally the limit when it came to picking a tree.
Christmas trees have a long tradition in my family, one that starts with my mother. For as long as I can remember, the annual Christmas tree was an event, and a few years stand out. There was the year my dad splurged for a flocked tree, and my mom decorated it with all red bulbs (my brother said it looked like it was on fire). And there was the year we sold our house and had to move into an apartment temporarily. That year Dad said we wouldn’t be buying a tree; the apartment just didn’t have enough room.
Enter defiant mother and her youngest child, me. Since my birthday is in December, I cherished the childhood fantasy that this was my month and that most of the festivities were done out of love for me. So naturally I was her cohort of choice. (Plus, my brother and sisters were in that angry teenager phase; you didn’t want them in public with you.)
My mother and I had just got in the car when she announced we would be going to Earl May’s. Earl May’s, I remember thinking. It was the most expensive landscaping store in town. We just didn’t go there—ever. Mom must really be mad. But I didn’t say a word as Mom picked out a tree that cost almost seventy dollars. I was stunned into silence, at least until we reached our apartment complex. Then my silence turned into laughter as we struggled to carry the tree up three flights of stairs, my mom plunking it with much emphasis in front of the window.
I don’t remember my dad’s reaction when he came home. If he was angry, I don’t recall. He could be incredibly accommodating when it came to the holidays. Maybe he even admired my mom’s sheer strength and perseverance in the face of resistance. Looking back, I realize it was quite a feat. I was eleven years old, and my mom was a busy professional. It would have been easier, in many ways, to go sans tree. But some traditions are worth fighting for. Mom taught me that, and I still believe it today. It’s a lesson that becomes more important with time. Sometimes you have to fight for what matters most.
Because you matter a lot, readers, I have a holiday giveaway just for you! Just share a holiday tradition in the comments below for a chance to win one of these cute South Dakota towels. I’ll be using random.org to select the winners on Dec.18. Good luck, and Happy Holidays!