My parent’s first Christmas together presented one major problem.
My father picked out the Christmas tree the first year my mother and father were married. A tree like the ones he had grown up with.
My mother: “That’s the tree you picked out?”
My dad: “Yes, isn’t it beautiful?”
My mother: (laughing) “That tree looks like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.”
My dad: “What do you mean? That’s the kind of tree we always had growing up.”
My mother: “Seriously? We never had a tree like that. We always had a full Christmas tree.”
Often, people who fall in love come from different experiences. This can be a stumbling block, or just a lesson in compromise and the perseverance it takes to make things work.
Let’s face it, what you love, is what you know… especially when it comes to your childhood memories, the way certain meals are prepared, or even your taste in decorating.
Yet, some of these things, like the style of your Christmas tree, can create an argument larger than who left the cap off of the toothpaste or how someone could forget to put the toilet seat down.
Not for my parents.
My mother went out and bought the fullest Christmas tree on the lot… what she had known as a child. She stood the tree in a stand and decorated it.
My father kept his Christmas tree up and decorated it.
The first year of their marriage, my parents proudly displayed two fresh Christmas trees in their small apartment.
One, a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, as my mother had called it… with sparse branches that hung towards the floor with the weight of the ornaments… this was the tree of a hard-working mailman, the father of eight.
The other, a full-bodied tree, with thick, rich branches. Reminiscent of the tree bought by the father of two, an appliance repairman.
When my sister and I came along, my parents celebrated Christmas every year with an artificial tree.
When we begged for a real tree, we learned of their differences and all about their first Christmas together. My parents laughed as they told us the story.
Growing up, we never got to have a real tree but we learned about the power of compromise and the importance of having a sense of humor.
For me, I tell this story with pride.
It has shaped my compassion, as well as, my ability to compromise and take another person’s feelings into account when you have a difference of opinion.
And you know what else?
My parents had another tradition that trumped my longing for the smell of a freshly cut Christmas tree in my childhood home.
On Christmas eve, Santa not only brought the presents, he brought and decorated the Christmas tree.
Every Christmas morning, my sister and I woke up to see our Christmas tree for the first time. The twinkling lights would shine on the dimly lit hallway wall as we made our way to the living room. The first glimpse of our Christmas tree took my breath away and I was just as excited about the tree as I was about the presents that were under it.
It was truly magical!
As an adult, I know that my parents spent many late Christmas Eve’s placing color coded branches into the base of our artificial tree, stringing lights, putting up ornaments and assembling bikes into the wee hours of the morning. They sacrificed their sleep and most likely their sanity, to give us the most memorable and exciting Christmas morning any child could ever dream of.
I wouldn’t trade those memories for the world.
My parents are really special, amazing people.
But I know at this point I don’t have to tell you that.
There are always more stories and more laughter to come…
Join me for Part 5: My parents favorite wedding gift… well, maybe most misunderstood wedding gift…