By the end of this year, I will have had 75 Christmas trees in the various homes I’ve lived in. Only one stands out in my mind.
In the late 1940s we were living in a little country town called Monta Vista near San Jose, California. Dad worked on and off, so we were generally low on money. But this particular year we had no funds for a Christmas tree.
Back then Christmas had much more to do with the birth of Jesus than it does today, and my mom made sure we celebrated that aspect of the holiday. She loved everything about the Christmas season and did her best to make it a festive time.
The tradition Mom loved the most was decorating the Christmas tree, which always stood in a place of honor in our living room. Come Thanksgiving, she would start dragging out boxes filled with all kinds of decorations. (We used to kid her about leaving the tree up until the Fourth of July. We were exaggerating, but I do remember her finally taking down a brown, bedraggled tree in February.)
Mom was almost in mourning about not having a tree that year. We tried to cheer her up but nothing seemed to work. As the holiday got closer, she retreated to her bedroom. There, being a woman of strong faith, she began to pray, leaving the situation in God’s hands.
A few days before Christmas, we awoke to an ecstatic mother singing Christmas carols and looking for the decorations. “Mom,” I asked her, “why are you so happy all of a sudden?” She said, “Come see what God did.”
I went out to the back porch with her. A gigantic tumbleweed had blown up against the garage door in the middle of the night. But Mom didn’t see a tumbleweed. She saw a beautiful Christmas tree that God had sent us.
We couldn’t get it through the front or back doors, so we opened both the French doors on the side of the house and brought the “tree” in that way. Somehow the two of us got it fastened to the Christmas tree stand, and we set it up in the living room.
Then we sat down at the dining room table and began to cut strips of construction paper, gluing the ends together to form a chain of bright colors. Mom made popcorn for us to string together with needles and thread.
The branches of the tumbleweed were much too brittle to support lights, so we tied just one string close to the trunk where the lights would shine upward.
Mom whipped up a batch of Lux soap flakes and water so we could daub the foamy stuff onto the ends of the branches to look kind of like snow. Finally we draped the popcorn and paper chains across the branches and finished the job with strings of tinsel.
We all stood back and looked at our tree. My mom began to cry softly. I heard her say under her breath, “Thank you, God, for providing us with a tree to bless us this Christmas.”
It’s a memory that continues to bless me every year.