Oh, Christmas Tree…

This is for all the returning troops and their families … and for those yet to come home.  Wishing all a peaceful holiday season!

A week before Christmas 1969 and we still did not have a tree.  In our house, Christmas was never a lavish affair, but our tree usually went up a few days after Thanksgiving and stayed well past the new year.

That year though, my parents were told neither of their eldest sons would be home for Christmas, due to their military service.  As proud as they were of their ‘boys’ and as much as they believed in what they fought for, both were worn down with the war as reported by Walter Cronkite.  I was twelve at the time and able to understand their tension … but being twelve, I also wanted the house to exude holiday cheer.

Finally, two days before Christmas, my brother Joey and I decided to take matters into our own hands.  Typically, the family would go down to the local fire station and purchase a pre-cut tree.  Since Joey and I had no money to pay for one and no car to get there, we climbed into the attic and took down the old Evergleam.

It stood about six feet tall and consisted of shiny silver arms inserted into a tall straight middle, along with a rotating color wheel, lit from behind by a single light bulb, creating a spotlight to illuminate the tree – red, then green, then blue.

Our ornaments filled a shoebox – cracked, chipped bulbs and homemade toilet paper drums that Joey and I hung with uncharacteristic care.  We were quiet as we worked, wanting this to be a surprise for our parents, hoping it would lift their spirits along with the weight they carried.  Joey and I had no gifts to put under the tree, but when we finished, we felt good.

I do not remember where my parents were while we decorated, but when we called them into the room, we knew the plan had not worked.  My mother burst into tears (something we seldom witnessed), while my father blustered for a minute or two and then said, “That’s real nice” before walking away, hands in pockets.

Again, we were both old enough to feel their sadness and fear, along with our own, but I also remember feeling hurt.  We were proud of our selfless act (not exactly selfless when you’re hoping for a new sled) and just wanted things to go back to the way they used to be, before our brothers became soldiers.  We wanted them to come home too.

Years later, Joey and I talked about that Christmas.  Being older, he knew a lot more about what was going on beneath the surface of our family at the time.  He understood why Mom and Dad were too overwhelmed to care about a tree.  He didn’t really care either, but helped decorate because it meant so much to me and our younger brother, Chris.  After hugging him for that admission, he added – “Besides, where would they put my new BB Gun, if there hadn’t been a tree?”

With Mom and big brothers...

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About hereisakiss

Daughter Writer Art's Educator
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9 Responses to Oh, Christmas Tree…

  1. jtolles says:

    Such bitter sweet memories. I remember back then. My mom had an apparatus that you sort of attached to the tree and it made it snow!

    Merry Christmas blessings dear heart.

  2. Dan Wilcox says:

    As always very much on point, & for the season. 1969 I had just been drafted, but was only in basic training & was able to come “home” for Xmas with my new wife. Funny how another’s memories dredges up our own.
    Thank you, & Merry Christmas.

  3. cortezsharkman says:

    Yes, Oh, Christmas tree, the icon of many a good story!
    Marisa

  4. hereisakiss says:

    Yes, I could have posted a story about the angel hair my mother used to love to spread all over the tree, but just thinking about it makes me itchy…Hugs

  5. hereisakiss says:

    From my brother, Bruce………Being in Vietnam at the time, I was unaware of the minefield that you and Joey had to go through. Thank you for putting up the Christmas Tree and for sharing the story. Just for a little while I was 20 yo all over again. Memories, even the not so nice ones, are gifts to be treasured when they are offered in love. Merry Christmas. Love you.

  6. hereisakiss says:

    From my brother, Carl………..Wow! I just now read your blog…..what a beautiful story!! It was like going back in time, standing there (you and Joey can’t see me) and watching you guys putting together this beautiful Christmas tree…..and then feeling so sad that Mom and Dad couldn’t appreciate it. Well…..I can see myself right now going over and wrapping you both in my arms (you were both so skinny) and whispering in your ears “I appreciate it and love you guys so much!”

  7. hereisakiss says:

    From me…………..Wow! To share or not to share…am happy I did. Love and peace to all!

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