Brace yourselves. This story includes mass anarchy, bloodshed and tears.
Greg and I were newly married and poor as proverbial church mice. Those were lean times, and we were as skinny as our wallets, living from hand to mouth for the first few months of married life.
So when Christmas rolled around, there was very little hope for anything more than a meager holiday meal. Still, I had been saving for weeks and had socked away enough to buy a little tree.
It was a horrible indulgence for two people struggling to make ends meet, but it was Christmas, and I was anxious to start our own family traditions. This would be our first Christmas on our own. Our families were 1200 miles away and we were all alone in Texas.
Greg, a jolly fellow—even if he was underweight, agreed that we should spend our last twenty dollars on Christmas.
We made a pilgrimage to the land of fir and holly, otherwise known as the local grocery store. The store was packed with frenzied shoppers and the lines stretched into the aisles. They were so busy they pulled the only guy they had manning the Christmas tree lot to help inside the store.
In the chaos, we finally found the store manager and he told us to go ahead and pick out our tree and he’d send a clerk to ring us up.
I picked out a thick and sturdy ten dollar tree. To this day I still remember how fresh it smelled. We steered it in the general direction of our little MGB, maiming Greg in the process. I zigged. He zagged. But only the tree came out of it unscathed. As Greg sucked on his bleeding finger, we waited for the clerk to show up.
And waited, and waited.
Twice, each of us went back to find the manager and he kept promising to send someone out there. Twenty minutes later we were still waiting. I went back one more time and the manager met me halfway.
“Has anyone come out yet?” he asked.
I shook my head.
He looked back toward the store, the lines as long as ever and then at us, two skinny kids, wide-eyed and anxious to be on our way.
“You picked out a nice tree,” he said, pointing at a tree that buried most of our little car.
I showed him the color-coded price tag on the tree, then handed him our only twenty dollar bill. “Can you break the twenty for me?”
“Afraid not,” he said. “I guess you’ll have to take it home.”
I stared at him dumbfounded, not understanding what he meant. By this time, Greg had joined us and asked if we could pay him instead.
“Nope,” the older man said. He shook Greg’s hand and wished us, Merry Christmas.
I must have had tears in my eyes because everything went blurry all at once. I looked up at the store manager and thanked him. “This is our first Christmas on our own,” I said.
He smiled. “And I’ll bet it’s one you’ll always remember too.”
More than thirty years later I realize now…he was right.
May all your holiday memories be just as warm and kind.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
No matter where you are today, I hope it's with someone you love.
***This is a rerun of my very first post that appeared at Samhain Publishing's blog in December 2007.
So how was your Christmas? Did you get anything special--or something you really wanted?