2. Our First Christmas Tree

2. Our First Christmas Tree

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

Our First Christmas Tree

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.

~Burton Hillis

As Christmas approaches each year, our house becomes a stop for our young grandsons on their way to visit their other grandparents. Our daughter and her husband unpack just enough for a night or two with us and then they are all on their way. Since we are Jewish, our house isn’t set up for Christmas, so it is understandable that, in their mixed family, they would want to be where the holiday is celebrated. We don’t mind. It is a chance for my husband and me to see them for a few days as they travel back and forth.

Only this year was different. The family came, as usual, a couple of days before Christmas Eve, but it was obvious as they exited the car that something was going on. One of our grandsons was coughing and the other was sniffling.

By the afternoon they were both cranky and in need of a nap. When they awoke, my daughter said both boys felt feverish. They had planned to leave the next day but, not wanting to travel with sick kids, asked if they could stay a little longer.

Of course they could.

In the morning there was no fever but the coughing was worse and both boys had drippy noses. My daughter and I were constantly washing the dishes the boys used, the clothes they wore, the toys they played with—just to keep the germs at bay. I was fast running out of disinfecting wipes. It was not the time for them to leave.

Another day passed and things were pretty much the same. Was it just a cold affecting both boys or was it something more serious? Should we call a doctor? And which one? I hadn’t needed a pediatrician in forever so I wasn’t up on who was available. We decided to wait one more day and see how things were going.

Now it was the day before Christmas. The boys seemed better but they were still coughing. It still didn’t seem like a good idea to travel with sick kids. Could they stay one more day?

They were certainly welcome to stay as long as they liked but the boys were disappointed that there was no Christmas tree.

It wouldn’t feel like Christmas Eve without a tree. It was time to make the house holiday friendly. We had a small Norway pine in a planter in a corner of our living room. It wasn’t a traditional Christmas tree but I suggested that we decorate it.

Our daughter set up a decoration-making station on our coffee table. Our older grandson made long, colored-paper chains while our younger grandson decorated paper circles to use as ornaments. I found some small, carved wooden birds, which I attached to twine and hung on the tree. We sang as we worked. The whole house came to life. My husband took photos for posterity.

Our son-in-law laid woolen scarves at the bottom of the tree for the blanket where the presents would be placed when the boys were asleep. After such a busy day, they trotted off to bed, happy.

Before I retired for the night, I looked at what we had all created. It was our first Christmas tree, transformed from an ordinary evergreen into something grand, and it graced our house with its simple beauty. I smiled at the thought of how excited our grandsons would be in the morning.

And excited they were. They reached under the tree and eagerly opened their presents. My present was that the boys were feeling much better. They left the next day, finally on their way to their other grandparents, who were eagerly awaiting their visit.

When the holidays were over, I removed the decorations. The tree reverted to its former self — though not quite. I left a little bird on one of the branches for a while longer as a reminder of the joy our impromptu Christmas tree had brought. I later put it in a special place, easily accessible, just in case we decide to do it all again next year, but this time, with healthy grandchildren.

~Ferida Wolff

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