As Christmas is upon us, I often times think back on my childhood. Most of us have joyous memories of decorating the tree, wrapping presents and excitedly awaiting the arrival of the old guy in the red suit. I will agree that mine are pretty much the same...except for the year we put up the silver tree.
The year was 1968 and I had just entered the first grade that fall. My father had also passed away, after a lengthy illness the previous July. As Christmas rolled around that year, it was evident that things were not the same...and most likely never would be. Although the 60's were a very defining era, some things had not begun to change. Most, if not all, of my friends had fathers. And most of the mothers did not work outside of the home. I was sort of thrown into these changes earlier than most. I was being raised by a single mom (before that term was coined), who was working as a lunchroom lady at my school, while attending night school. My life had changed drastically. As Christmas approached, I wondered how IT would be "different" also.
Traditionally, the holiday scene around my house consisted of all the "usuals"...baking, listening to Christmas music, watching Santa with his spy glass on TV and, of course, decorating the tree. In previous years, we had purchased live trees. This year, however, Mother decided to purchase an artificial, silver one. I'm not sure what prompted her to do that. Was it the fact that they were trendy that year? Or perhaps she didn't think she could manage getting a live one home from the lot with the assistance of a 6 year old? Maybe, she also knew that things were never going to be the same again and subconsciously punctuated that fact with a visual reminder. Whatever the case was, I shall never forget that tree.
It was a simple tree...with no lights...and Mother bought a couple of boxes of blue Christmas balls to hang on it. Over to the side of the tree was an electronic color wheel, that when in motion made the silver tree appear to change colors. As one might guess, it did not take long to decorated that tree. However, I still insisted on putting our favorite "Christmas Decorating Record" on the console record player while decorating that sparse tree; Bing Crosby's, "White Christmas". I now have that same recording on my i-pod and can sing every song word for word to this day.
Up until that year, we had purchased a live Christmas tree each year, that permeated the house with the scent of the woodsy outdoors. Each night I would look at the silver tree and eventually it began to mesmerize me. Beckoning me to approach its tinny branches, I would wander into the living room and lay near it on the hard, parquet floor with my head propped upon my chubby little crossed arms. Watching the tree turn shades of red, green, blue and yellow, reflected off the color wheel, I would dream of the gifts Santa would leave me under that tree in just a very short time. Things may have changed around my house, but the hope that only a child can find was also still found within my world.
I cannot remember us ever using that silver tree again, but memories of it have remained etched in my mind forever. Thinking back, it wasn't a bad tree; just a different one. And it taught me a few lessons along the way. Over the years, the silver tree has become symbolic to me. It was not a "live" tree, thus causing me to reflect upon the loss that I had experienced in my life; a time of pausing to try to figure out what would happen next. Although this was to be a new life journey for my mother and me, I had no choice but to continue along the path to the future. My world may have slowed down in preparation for the adjustments that were to ultimately come, but it did not stop. The world kept right on spinning and one was required to figure out quickly how to pen the next chapter. My life, although a roller coaster at times, has been full and meaningful. The green trees returned to our home in all of the following Christmases and with them, the assurance that life WOULD continue on, if only a little differently now. For God KNEW the plans He had (and has) for me...plans to prosper me and not to harm me; new chapters would unfold daily and I was prepared to embrace each of them...just like I had embraced that silver tree so many years ago.