Gendusa: The beauty of the humble tree

Published 4:29 pm Wednesday, December 14, 2016


Christmas 2011 was unlike any I had ever experienced before. Most of my life the holidays had been very similar and I looked forward to enjoying our traditions every year.

Our house was always filled with family, laughter, and folks cooking in the kitchen. Everyone was excited and glad to be together.

After my children were grown, they still came home for Christmas. My nieces and nephews also found their way to our house during the holidays to join the noise and high spirits.

My niece, Emily, would bring her pumpkin muffins, and her boys had to have a meal of my husband’s Italian meatballs. My children needed their fill of my special chocolate chip cookies and looked forward every year to my misplacement of a gift or two.

After my granddaughter was born in 2005, she followed the traditions as if she were born knowing them. Going to Grandma’s house was like visiting the North Pole filled with candy, toys, and a huge tree that sparkled with ornaments. Not to mention lots of presents with her name on the tags!

However, sometimes life has a way every now and then to break tradition. It certainly did for all of us in 2011.

My daughter was in the middle of cancer treatment in Florida. She could not travel home to Atlanta. Once she was diagnosed, most of my time was spent with her and helping her family.

Around Thanksgiving my husband and I discussed the upcoming Christmas holidays. His mother was scheduled to come for a visit from Louisiana. His children lived in Atlanta as well; mine were scattered across three states.

After much thought, it was decided that we would spend our Christmas apart.

He had a business trip scheduled right before I was to leave for the holidays back to Florida.

Our home was void of a Christmas tree and other decorations that were in storage. I walked around the house thinking how sad it all looked without the tinsel, garland, stockings, and décor. I couldn’t leave him without something to remind him that, even though I would not be here, the spirit of Christmas would be.

I knew I didn’t have the time or energy to put up the big tree, but possibly I could put up a small tree.  I went to find a little tree, hopefully, on sale at Hobby Lobby.

I came upon a 4-foot tall skinny tree with fake bark and stiff branches. It wasn’t quite as bad as Charlie Brown’s, but it did need love and attention.

When I got home, I decided it would be “David’s Tree.” It would be filled with ornaments depicting everything he loved. It would be a nice surprise when he returned from his trip.

I wound old fashioned colored lights and eagle claw red and white fishing floats snapped on and around the stiff branches. I made ornaments out of practice golf balls glued to tees adorned with red and white ribbon.

Ornaments depicted fish, golf, and beach Santas. There is no one that loves pizza more than David, so I found a pizza ornament along with a camera one because of his love of photography. Pictures of his children hung among tiny creels and wine corks.

When I finished, I lit the tree, and a broad smile ran across my face. The little tree was now happy, crazy and wonderfully joyful.

I flew out of Atlanta leaving David very grateful for his special tree and knowing that our Christmas apart was only temporary. Our old traditions would one day return.

There is not much I remember about that Christmas other than odd things. My children and I all gathered in Florida where I cooked the meals and attended the events that involved my granddaughter.

I spent many days walking around babbling to God in prayer repeating the word “Please,” over and over. I begged a lot.

I remember being in a crowded Costco with my daughter about two days before Christmas. “Crowded” is probably an understatement.

As we left the store, a gentleman checked our receipt as they always do, looked at my daughters scarfed head, and gently said, “Ma’am I wish you well. Merry Christmas.”

Life and traditions did return. Christmas again would be celebrated complete with the meatballs, cooking, and tons of gifts. Except now we have added one more special tradition.

Each year right after Thanksgiving we put up our large tree along with another little tree in the breakfast room.

It sits on a table to make it tall and resplendent. It is filled with fish ornaments and a fake slice of pizza. David’s tree stands as proud as the big one. Under its branches are stuffed toys and a sign that says, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Fishing lures, and golf balls, shine amid the old colored lights.

However, in the back of the tree on a lone branch is a large pink Christmas ball attached to a picture of my daughter that was taken right after she no longer needed the scarf.

I put it there as a reminder that Christmas must never be taken for granted. I am humbled to understand that traditions are never as important as love and that family being together is not just about distance.

Each time I attach the pink ribbon to the tree I am reminded and humbled by the kindness of a stranger, the strong shoulders of a friend, and the understanding of a husband.

More importantly, I am immensely grateful to a loving God who is the light that really makes even the humblest tree shine with beauty.