The little kid in me will always want a REAL, fresh Christmas tree. To me that smell IS Christmas. I know, I know. But I think of it as helping a small business owner, who is planting a tree for every one which is sold. Besides, living near a lake system, here old trees are sunk in the lake after Christmas to serve as beds for fish, giving the fry a place to grow and hide until they're big enough to go out on their own.
Traditionally, Hubby and I get a tree together but this year, tradition got scrambled by schedules...and a failed attempt to locate one this past Sunday. So Hubby suggested a five to six foot tree, no bigger, and I found one at lunch. Granted, it didn't feel very Christmasy because the weather has suddenly turned exceptionally warm when a week ago it was below freezing at night. There's something very wrong about perspiring while selecting a Christmas tree.
I can only imagine the picture I made, all 5' 1" of me trying to one hand a tree a foot taller than me by holding it out at arm's length to check for symmetry and the knowledge that limbs will unfold to look natural, not one sided. At least the "excessive needles falling" check was easier; grab and shake. With the tree about 2 feet from my face, it LOOKED fine to me. So the tree and I tangoed to the register...which, of course, was as far away from the trees as possible. Carry two, three, four and rest two, three, four. I'm sure we entertained anyone in sight.
At the register the young cashier looked at the tree and shook her head. "Nope, I need a tree bigger than that!" she huffed. "Least 7-9 feet."
I kindly explained that by the time you put the tree in the stand and added the topper, my tree would be close to 7 feet. She agreed that hadn't crossed her mind. So the tree was bagged in netting and a very nice man, realizing I was on a solo mission, told me to bring the car around and he'd load it. Ah, mission accomplished!
When I drove in, Hubby was coming around the corner of the house and not seeing a tree tied to the roof, thought I had failed the mission. He looked skeptical when I told him it was INSIDE my Jeep Patriot, as I reminded him of his 5-6 foot requirement. I'd measured beforehand and knew I could get a 6 foot tree inside. Just barely. He opened the back and seemed pleased. I went inside to do the annual rearranging of the furniture...which amounts to moving a rocking chair into an adjoining room to free up the "Christmas Tree Corner."
Task completed, I went on the front porch. Hubby had finished the requisite trimming of the bottom of the tree, so I helped tighten down the bolts holding it in the stand...yet another Elf service rendered by those born low to the ground. Hubby stood it up and claimed it was just the right size.
Actually, it's a perfect little tree, with emphasis on little. Sure it fit perfectly in the corner and I know when we decorate it tonight I will be pleased. But in that moment, on the warm front porch with no evening breeze and mosquitoes buzzing in my ears, I felt a twinge of grumpy Grinch.
One of the good things about being married to someone for a long time is they know what you're thinking without you opening your mouth. I was feeling rather dejected about my choice. It's autumn and I was hot. There were stupid mosquitoes running around in December! And worst of all, it didn't feel like Christmas. My confession? I am not an adult this time of year, I'm a kid at heart. Not even an overgrown kid. An elf sized one who doesn't try to peek into packages but awaits Christmas with all the wonder and awe of a six year old. And if that ever stops, plant me in the ground.
Hubby was in the kitchen cooking when I walked in. He hugged me as I muttered with a sigh, "I bought a Charlie Brown tree". Laughing, he said he liked it and it really was the perfect little tree. I stated in no uncertain terms that I was never, ever going solo tree hunting again. I got another hug. The combination of his understanding and reassuring hug might've been the best way to bring my Christmas spirit back to life. A perfect gift.
Then again, smashing that mosquito which followed us into the house might've helped. :)
Nov. 22nd marks a tragedy in America: the 50th "anniversary" of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I was five years old when he died. I still clearly remember playing outside and asking Mom if Mr. Kennedy was going to be okay. As documented in my baby book, I was quite the fan. One notation stated that when Kennedy appeared on t.v. , I announced, "There's the President, now on with the show." His death was probably the first time I cried over someone I didn't know. Ironically, shocking as it was to witness on t.v., I did not cry when Jack Ruby assassinated Lee Harvey Oswald as he was being transported to another jail.
Kennedy was well known for, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country". And with that statement, the man from Massachusetts planted a seed in a little southern girl's mind. Sure, he had his personal problems, but little kid me subconsciously latched onto the power of public service.
We would meet again at a crucial moment, Mr. Kennedy and I. As a twelve year old, I was part of a group of girls who won a trip to Washington, D.C. over a Thanksgiving weekend. We were part of the "Y-Teens", a group for strengthening "girl power" locally known as the YWCA. It was the female counterpart to the YMCA, which we thought of as the gym where boys played basketball. Several years ago I chronicled that trip in a 2 part poem which began:
Five little girls.
Black and white.
Traveled in a van
with the Undertaker's wife.
Destination: Washington, D.C.
Yes, our driver was the wife of a local undertakerwho'd taken girls on this trip before. Yet this was at a time when integration was in it's infancy. Sending a racially mixed group out-of-town with a black woman was a test of our parents' intestinal fortitude. As kids, we were caught up in the adventure of it all. Our biggest "shock" was learning that our accommodations would be in a convent of Nuns.
We toured the usual sites, with the exception of the White House because there wasn't enough time. And yet, it would be an encounter with Mr. Kennedy which firmly planted my feet on the path to public service.
Journeyed for fun.
Learned awkward lessons
courtesy of Arlington Cemetery,
the Unknown Soldier and
the work of Lee Harvey Oswald.
Eerily quiet. Creepily correct.
A mathematician's symmetrical dream.
Precise angles wherever you looked.
Death done to perfection.
We watched in hushed awe at the changing of the guard at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Funny, I still remember actually wondering who he was, what he was like and what had happened to him. Afterwards we walked over to the eternal flame at Kennedy's grave. It was there that all the "stuff" I had witnessed on t.v. became real. I was standing at the grave of someone I didn't know, but admired. And it overwhelmed me.
for the van.
stood with a lump in her throat
felt as eternal
the flame at her feet.
a soldier approached.
laid a hand on the little girl’s shoulder
stood reverently with her for one brief moment.
all the way to my heart.
That night we were on our way back from the Chinese restaurant when the answer to, "What would you like for dessert?" was an emphatic, "Ice cream!" Yep, in November. So we stopped at a hotel with a restaurant and went in for dessert. Some of you will get a kick out of the fact our mischievous waiter sent us into the bar. When the bartender turned around and found five little girls on bar stools requesting ice cream, he almost had a heart attack as his buddy stood in the doorway laughing. Rushed to a proper table, we discussed our day while waiting. The room was virtually empty, with just a single couple nearby.
next to the romantic couple,
little girls turned to look.
was dashing in Marine dress blues.
was picture book pretty.
little girls diverted their eyes uneasily and looked away.
Ah yes, even then I was Miss Curiosity. Politely of course, but always wondering, "Why?" I'll let the rest of the poem tell the tail.
fifth little girl was spellbound.
the Marine look the woman in the eye,
little girl’s heart skipped a beat
along with the pretty woman’s
took her hand and smiled.
she couldn’t hear the words,
girl somehow understood the dance,
by the woman’s face.
spoke, then she spoke.
laughter intertwined until you couldn’t tell them apart.
little girl wanted to scoot closer.
hear what the handsome man said
made the woman look so fascinated,
shy and moved and happy
at the fifth
it was impolite to stare
man in a wheelchair.
fifth girl frowned.
by what they said.
at each girl until,
by one, they glanced at the man,
diverted their eyes.
carefully, not wanting to cause a scene
fifth girl politely checked
was amazed to discover that
Knight in Shining Armor
ridden in on his own set of wheels.
enough, it didn’t matter.
one thought kept returning to the little girl.
day when I grow up
want a man to look at me
way he looks at her.
never saw his chair.
only saw the love in his eyes.
who survived the war.
to ride his government issued metal horse.
And won my heart.
Fast forward to now, where a little girl made the decision to embrace the concept of, "what you can do for your country". I grew up wanting to make a difference with compassion, like that silent soldier at Kennedy's grave did for me. Our charity for wounded soldiers is more than a "Do-Gooder" exercise. It's paying it forward...with love and respect.
That day when I was so unsteady on my feet, a soldier literally had my back. Today, I have his. Our charity doesn't just give archery equipment to help soldiers heal physically. We offer a hand to someone whose world might be a little unsteady. We don't hand them a gift and push them out the door, we actually care about that soldier. And we stay in touch.
For me, it's the ultimate "Thank You" to those two soldiers:
the one who could've rushed past but made time to care about me
the one who made me see the man, not the wheelchair.