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Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Christmas Tree

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? 


Dru said...

What a beautiful story, TIME.

Merry Christmas Maria to you and yours!

Maria Zannini said...

Merry Christmas, Dru.
Time is at the top of my list for any occasion. Thanks for stopping by during Christmas.

Cate Masters said...

What a lovely tale, and even lovelier memory for you to share. May all your Christmases be filled with such joy.

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Cate, and thanks.

This Christmas is turning out to be memorable--but not the way I expected. We'll see how this escapades ends tonight.

Mason Canyon said...

A wonderful story. May all your Christmases be as memorable as that one. Merry Christmas.

Thoughts in Progress

Maria Zannini said...

Merry Christmas, Mason!

jackie b central texas said...

Yes I did get something I wanted an entire week with my Husband home without him being ill for the holidays from allergies and asthma and ending up in the ER to get steroids to take to get better!

Nice memory Maria and even nicer that 30 years ago the man understood how much that tree meant to the two of you and he was willing to do his part to make that first Christmas special by being kind to two kids!

jackie >_<

Maria Zannini said...

Jackie: Yay for a healthy holiday! That's good news any day of the week. Merry Christmas, hon.

Sherri said...

What a sweet story Maria!

Merry Christmas to you both.

Maria Zannini said...

Merry Christmas, Sherri! I can't believe you got a moment to yourself so you could visit. Thanks for coming by.

Cathy in AK said...

Awww...*That* is Christmas.

Family, good friends, health and peace of mind....I have everything I could ever want, Maria. The rest is much appreciated icing : )

Merry Merry to you and Greg!

Meghan Schuessler said...

Now that's the Christmas spirit!

My boyfriend got me an ipod touch! I've already wasted half an hour playing trivial pursuit (by myself). But it's a cool gadget to have for boring car rides and stuff like that.

I hope you had a wonderful, joy-filled Christmas!!!! :)

Maria Zannini said...

Cathy: Icing. That's a nice way of looking at it. I'm glad you had a good Christmas.

Maria Zannini said...

Meghan: My husband loves his i-pod. Actually I think he loved it too much because it's beginning to give him trouble. I hope it hangs on until next Christmas. :)

Sounds like you had a wonderful Christmas!

Marianne Arkins said...

That's SO sweet... got me all choked up. :-)

Love to see that there are still some folks out there who are kind and thoughtful. What a great memory.

Merry Christmas a little bit late.

Maria Zannini said...

Marianne: This is why I always think the best of people first--even if it might seem a bit naive. There are a lot of good people in the world.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

aww! This was a lovely story!

brokenbiro said...

Aw bless! What a nice story.

Wishing you and yours a happy festive season!

word ver = ingly (it should have a 't' in front of it!)

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah, thanks for stopping by over the holidays!

Maria Zannini said...

Merry Christmas, Brokenbiro!

Linda Leszczuk said...

I was off the computer for a couple days so I missed this one but have to make a late comment -

My most memorable tree was Christmas '72. I was incredibly pregnant with our firstborn and Uncle Sam, in his infinite wisdom, had decided to transfer my active duty spouse from Ohio to California in late December. So we spent Christmas in a motel room. Not willing to give up Christmas, I made a tree by sticking styrofoam balls all over with toothpicks and stacking them in an inverted cone to get a tree shape. Then I coated the whole thing with spray snow and hung tiny ornaments from the toothpicks. If the lights were dimmed and you squinted hard enough, it really did look like a snowy white Christmas tree. I've never forgotten that one.

Angelina Rain said...

What a beautiful story!

Kimber Leszczuk. said...

That is a sweet story!! I hope you had a Merry Christmas this year too! :)

Maria Zannini said...

Linda: That was a beautiful story. Sometimes I think the times when we have nothing are the times we treasure the most.

Angelina, Kimber: Merry Christmas, all.

Thank you for stopping by to visit me.