Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Ghost of Christmas Trees Past, Part 3

This is the final post on past holiday topiaries. If I ever finish decorating Christmas tree #5, I will take a picture to show you. I brought home some shells from the beach this summer--tiny, pretty seashells to make into ornaments for our Christmas tree this year. I put the shells in a "safe place," a place I just knew I would remember. And now I don't remember. 

You see, this is a family trait passed down through my great grandmother, O'Dell. She would hide things, important things like candy or Christmas gifts or bills, in secret places in her house so the items would not get lost. Then, when she needed to retrieve these items, she would, in theory, be able to pull them out, unharmed. Most often, however, she could not remember where they had been stashed when she needed to retrieve them. My mom and I both suffer from this condition. I remember getting a few Christmas gifts post-Christmas (usually mid-spring) when my mom came across the gifts while looking for something else. (Who says Christmas comes once a year?) Mom and I affectionately  refer to these memory lapses as "O'Dell moments." Having a nickname for such moments helps me not to get too upset with myself for having had them in the first place (most of the time).

This is a photo of my grandmother and her mother, O'Dell, from several decades ago.
(O'Dell is the one with lighter hair.) I remember the first time I saw this picture: My mom had unearthed it from somewhere, deep within storage, and given a framed copy of it to my grandmother for Christmas. The photo brought a gasp followed by tears. (Granny was a tough, tough cookie, so having tears, for her, was a pretty big deal.) Sharing stories like this reminds me of how much I miss having her here.

Anyway, if you missed the first two parts of this series, here are the links to both of them: Part I and Part II.

Christmases #3 and #4
If I thought that we were broke when we first got married, I learned in years 3 and 4 that I was wrong. For two consecutive years, we were "even more broker" (my grammar students don't need to know about that faux pas). Several weeks in those years, we had around $8 for groceries. We tried switching from shampoo to baking soda and vinegar for a few months in order to help save money (hey, it did work for a while!). I went without toothpaste and make-up for a time (yes, I still brushed, I just used baking soda), and we briefly tried to forego deodorant (baby powder really isn't that good a substitute, in case you wanted to know). We could not afford luxuries like new clothes, TV’s, the Internet, fancy phones, or money to eat out. One time, we even had to borrow money from my parents in order to pay a bill. (If you are as independent as I am, you understand how defeated I felt.) Needless to say, we did not have money for a Christmas tree.

Now, we did not spread the word about our financial difficulties. We didn’t go around sulking or lamenting things we couldn’t buy. (We did not hide it, either. It just was what it was.) No one knew that we didn't have a tree. But on one December morning, a church member approached us in the parking lot, and asked us if we had a tree. When we said that we did not, he placed in our vehicle a brand new, pre-lit Christmas tree. What a surprising moment!

It didn’t matter that we preferred real trees, or that it wasn’t the style we would have chosen for ourselves—neither of those things really entered into our minds at the time. We were just so blessed to have received something that we thought we were going to have to do without. We decorated it with simple ornaments that we made ourselves; the topper itself, a wooden cross, was carved by my husband's loving (and rough) hands. 

Though years 3 and 4 were extremely difficult years, God provided for us time and again. We were where He wanted us, and He made a way for us to stay. That's what our old artificial tree reminded me of: God's provision.