Christmas trees hold a great deal of emotion. They are magical reminders of all the good things life offers us. They are the epitome of sparkle, lights and even our own creativity. We are proud of them. We show them off. They are a true reflection of status and the lives of our families.
Christmas trees hold a lot of secrets and tradition. We attach memories to them because they encompasses the theme of the season as a whole. We don’t always share how these trees were created or the baggage hanging from the branches. There’s a lot of crying Christmas trees standing staunch and steadfast in front windows, living rooms and family rooms in our neighborhoods.
Charlie Brown made it socially acceptable to have a tiny sapling of a tree with a few needles hanging on for dear life. Trees are a luxury when your funds are low or non-existent. It becomes important to give up food, make the car payment late or scrape quarters together from under the couch to get a tree.
Being a brand new bride with two little girls, a broken sewer line, debts out the ass and a money pit house didn’t leave much money in the budget for a Christmas tree bedazzled in light and covered with Nieman Marcus ornaments. My brother in law was laid off from US Steel and his funds were zero’d out also. He and my then husband came up with a plan to have real Christmas trees in our homes by purchasing them at the eleventh hour on Christmas eve. He went to numerous tree lots and asked when they would be closing and asked if the real pines would be discounted. At eight o’clock on Christmas eve, he and my spouse drove our little Pontiac Sunbird to the lot across from Continental Can in West Mifflin, PA and bought two live trees for pennies on the dollar. Strapped them to the roof of the car, overhanging the windshield and drove them to our respective homes.
I had faith this plan would work because I had purchased a couple of bucks worth the craft felt and some sequins and hand sewed ornaments for the promised Christmas tree. Our little girls assisted in gluing sparkles and glitter on the little figurines which resembled the symbols of the season. Of course the paper chains and photo ornaments made in pre-school were proudly hung on the branches they could reach. That tree resembled hope and dreams for all blessed and miraculous events.
The next year, we didn’t get any smarter knowing Christmas was coming, again. The finances were tight and my precious grandmother suggested we cut the top off of one of her giant pine trees to use for our “have to have a live tree for Christmas” engagement. It was comical watching my white collar, overweight, non-mechanical, non-outdoors-man, husband tackle that fiasco. Thank God he was highly insured which took the edge off of my extreme anxiety. Again, the handmade ornaments were proudly and lovingly placed on the branches our little daughters could reach. The tin foil star was propped on the top and magic was again, created. This was the year my grandfather died on Christmas Day.
During the holiday season a few years later, one of our little girls was killed in a horrific car accident. Because we still had a very young daughter who deserved a happy life, a tree with tradition had to be put up each of the following holidays. The ornaments with glitter and puffy paint so gingerly applied by tiny hands had to be taken out of the Joseph Horne Company cardboard box and ever so gently placed on the Christmas tree. My heart could hear the Christmas tree cry.
Two more children and years of adding their special ornaments followed. Kids need to know what they create is cherished and special. As they each grew, so did the number of treasures for the Christmas tree. I have to admit, it was excruciatingly difficult to re-create the magic without missing our daughter, hearing her sing Jingle Bells in my head and oh, so missing the feeling of her little arms hold on to me. The helpless void never diminishes. It can never go away because we loved them so much and miss them more than words can describe. They are not forgotten by any means or ways.
There are 20 Christmas trees in Newtown, Connecticut crying. Some of them will be standing till February with no needles on the branches but little ballerina slippers and cowboy rocking horses will proudly stand guard. The school photos glued to construction paper with the glitter borders and the green and red paper chains will still have their arms wrapped around those trees. Little siblings and cousins and friends don’t understand the enormous burdens and crosses being carried right now.
The parents of the 20 Newtown angels are now members of a club no one deserves to join. These little children now belong to all of us. Hold them close in your heart. The crying Christmas trees hold their cherished memories and the signature of their important lives and love.