Twenty-eight years ago a last minute, scrappy little Christmas tree earned a special place in my heart.
My husband and I were newlyweds and 1988 would be our first Christmas together. That December he was a soon to be laid off landscaper, as his employer prepared to shut down for the winter. I was in graduate school and earning only a small stipend. We had no money to buy a Christmas tree and had planned to go without.
However, a few days before Christmas on one of his last landscape jobs of the season, my husband and his coworkers cut down a large, overgrown evergreen shrub for a client. As he examined the downed greenery, my husband decided the topmost five feet would make a passable Christmas tree. So with the client’s and his employer’s permission, he brought it home.
We didn’t have a Christmas tree stand, so we put the little tree in a bucket of water, with a blue blanket filling in as a tree skirt. (Think Linus and Charlie Brown’s Christmas story.) We had only a half a dozen or so Christmas ornaments between us, but we hung them on the little tree, along with two crocheted snowmen, some fabric flowers, a beaded necklace, and a “Noel” banner. In our final stroke of ingenuity, we took one of our remaining wallet-sized wedding photos, taped a string to it, and hung it on the tree as well.*
Ever since that first Christmas, we’ve always found a way to have a Christmas tree. Sometimes we’ve gotten them for free from a friend with a woods to clear, but more often from a more usual route — a cut-your-own tree farm or a grocery store’s tree lot. Our ornaments have ranged from kid-proof plastic to heirloom glass. Over the years the trees have all been lovely. But that first scrappy little tree still has a memorable beauty all its own.
*We have hung that wedding photo on every Christmas tree we’ve had, every year since.