A Memorable Christmas Tree in Texas

They didn’t have much that year, but the little branch reminded them of the true spirit of the holiday season.

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Posted in , Oct 27, 2021

Angel ornaments hung on a pinecone miniature tree; Illustration by Gisela Goppel

Our family moved to Orange, Texas, in 1976, when my husband, Jerry, got a job in a refinery as a pipe-fitter and welder. We left Dallas and moved into a small mobile home. When the job in Orange ended, we waited for the union to find Jerry more work. Months went by. Rent was due on the mobile home, and so were the payments on our home back in Dallas, to which we knew we’d eventually return.

At least we’ll have a nice dinner, I thought as I drove the girls to the supermarket on Christmas Eve. Amanda was nine months old and Kimberly was three. We’d spent what money we had to get them a few gifts, with just enough left over for a nice dinner. Not exactly the kind of Christmas that would make a lifetime memory.

Even in the supermarket I was surrounded by reminders of everything we wouldn’t have this year. The poinsettias in pots wrapped with shiny paper looked especially tempting. I hoped the girls weren’t as distracted by the decorations as I was. Kimberly skipped alongside the cart, giddy with excitement. I was afraid she had disappointment in store. Maybe she won’t remember this Christmas at all, I thought, pushing Amanda in the kiddie seat. It seemed the best thing I could hope for.

We finally got through the checkout counter. The exit door opened and we wheeled out to see a wall of Christmas trees, each one waiting to be untied so its branches could fan out in a special spot at home. “Look, Momma!” said Kimberly.

“Sweetie, we just can’t get a tree this year.”

Amanda was too young to have any expectations, and Kimberly seemed to take it in stride, but I felt terrible. We pushed our cart through the parking lot. Halfway to the car, Kimberly stopped and pointed. “Look, Momma! That can be our tree!”

At first I wasn’t sure what she was pointing at. Then I saw it. A single pine bough, lying on the asphalt. It must have fallen off a real tree someone had bought. I couldn’t say no to Kimberly again. “Okay,” I said. “We’ll bring it home.”

We swerved our cart over to the branch, but Kimberly was more than capable of carrying it herself. Back home, I found an empty coffee can to set it in. Kimberly collected some rocks from outside and filled the tin can to steady the bough. The girls made a game of it. “Don’t put any rocks in your mouth, Amanda,” Kimberly warned her little sister.

While I made dinner, the girls colored Santa Clauses and stars and bells. Crayons were strewn across the floor. “I need the red,” Kimberly said. Amanda waved a green one. Jerry cut out their artwork for the tree. We set the display on the breakfast bar in our tiny kitchen.

“That branch was a lucky find,” Jerry said when we sat down together for dinner.

Maybe it was luck. Or maybe it was God showing me that I had been looking at Christmas all wrong. My family and I celebrated many other Christmases with “real trees” later. But it’s the Christmas in the mobile home that we all remember most.

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