In 2008 and 2009 we were a little nomadic, moving between the coast and a little further inland. I was ready to buy a house again and put down roots. But where?
My son knew of an acquaintance wanting to sell his grandparents house. We took a ride down a bumpy country road to check it out. I pulled into the yard, took one look, promptly backed out and told my son, “No way in heck would I ever move there. Don’t bother making an appointment to see inside.”
Fast forward a few months, no other deal panned out for us. To make matters even worse, my husband lost his job. What followed was a frenzy of fighting for his unemployment benefits and trying to find an affordable place to live.
God sure does have a sense of humor.
The only place I could afford on my salary alone was – you guessed it – the place I refused to consider a few months earlier.
We moved in December 1, 2009. Christmas was going to be tight. My husband took our 5-year old grandson and 3-year old granddaughter into the woods to chop a tree. We do not live in an area that abounds with beautiful trees you see in a Hallmark Christmas movie. They found a scrawny scrub pine, brought it in the house, put lights on it, and whatever ornaments the tiny branches could hold. The grands and my husband were excited. I was depressed and cried. But in the end, we had a very good Christmas. We made the best of our situation.
From that moment on, the grands wanted to go into the woods to chop down a miserable excuse for a Christmas tree. I simply refused for that to happen again, and we bought our trees off of a lot.
Eventually, with my husband’s chronic pain taking over his body, I resorted to a fake tree.
Last Christmas, my then 14-year old grandson revolted. He wanted a real tree. I refused.
This year, with all he has been through, I was determined to get him a real tree. I have been busy purging clutter in this house (yes, the same house I refused to move in to 10 years before), and decided I did not have room to store a fake tree. I donated the tree, which meant I would be forced to buy a real tree.
My son and grandson took a ride to check out real trees and were shocked at the price tags. Just great. I donated that fake tree, and now I was stuck. With other expenses happening, I knew this would be a stretch, but I would bite the bullet for my grandkids.
My now 15-year old grandson took matters into his own hands. While I was at work, he headed out to the woods to follow his Paw Paw’s footsteps and find us a tree. The little prankster he is – he chopped down a Charlie Brown tree, drug it into the house, put it in the stand – took a picture – then texted it to me. Funny kid. Why can’t you put as much effort into your homework as you do a prank!
I get home from work, just in time to see him setting up the real tree he intended to use in our house. It looked better than the Charlie Brown tree, and even better than the tree he and Paw Paw cut down 10 years ago.
But it is still a sparse scrub pine and not really Christmas tree worthy. Oh well! This child put a lot of effort into this, and I didn’t have the heart to say, “Throw it out because I am going to buy a tree from a lot.” He jacked it up in a stand, threw lights on it, and hung a few ornaments – all by himself. We topped it of with his Paw Paw’s Santa hat.
This young man hasn’t shown much interest in many things since losing his Paw Paw. I was glad to see his excitement in this project.
I took a chance to peek into my past, possibly opening my heart to some aches. But looking back, what I saw as my only choice for a roof over our head as a severe setback, turned into years of a fun life I never could have imagined. I learned how much I loved the country life and this former city girl was converted.
For quite some time, my husband, myself and the two grands were quite the tight little family unit. They learned about vegetable gardening, harvesting, storing and canning. They learned about chickens and had the fun experience of collecting their breakfast from the backyard. They experienced walking down a country dirt road to a pond, catching fish for supper, gutting and cleaning them, and eating this fresh catch straight off the grill. They learned how to build a campfire, roast marshmallows, make hot chocolate and s’mores, and watch a favored Christmas movie with their daddy on an outdoor screen.
They learned how to take a scrawny scrub pine tree and turn it into a magical Christmas wonder.
What I saw as a failure of not being able to give my grandkids a proper tree from a lot, turned into an adventure for them and their Paw Paw, and taught them to improvise, using what is available to them. In hindsight, this ‘failure’ was pure lagniappe, giving my grands a priceless memory.
We made the most of our country life in our dinky house with our sad Christmas trees. We had fun doing the best we could, until my husband’s chronic pain became so unbearable it changed his demeanor, which changed our lives, which ended up taking his life.
This Christmas, drawing upon our God-given strengths, we will start new traditions, while preserving some of our old traditions that are instilled in our brains as happy memories.
Last night I was blogging about not being okay. I thought it would take quite some time to shake that feeling. All it took was a 15-year old grandson, a sad looking scrub pine and great memories. Tonight, I am okay, and I will take tonight for what it is.
Christmas is what you make it – and so is Life!
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6 Praise the LORD! For he has heard my cry for mercy.
7 The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.
8 The LORD gives his people strength. He is a safe fortress for his anointed king.