By Jennie Newton
First published in 1994
Mother didn’t buy her usual Scotch Pine Christmas tree that year. She left the well-worn red and green glossy glass balls, the traditional satin ornaments, and the elegant jeweled velvet doves packed away in marked cardboard boxes in the third- floor attic at Boxwood.
It must not have felt much like Christmas that year to her.
Her youngest son stopped by briefly on the afternoon of the day before Christmas Eve on his way to see in-laws in Charleston. She knew not to expect him to stay because it was his turn to spend Christmas with his wife’s family. After several hours he left, traveling east on I-20.
Christmas Eve brought an unexpected call from her other son in Atlanta. He gave her an hour’s notice before arriving at her house with his two young daughters. Noticing the absence of a full-sized, decorated tree, he teased her about the 18-inch high, elegantly adorned greenery that she had proudly displayed atop a high dark mahogany plant stand. Then he too left … to celebrate the yuletide with his wife’s family in Atlanta.
That left me, the proverbial prodigal daughter and my arrival on Christmas day. I had known that things would be different, when I was warned not to arrive at Academy Street too early. Dad even had a fire made in the hearth before my arrival. As we remaining family members entered the room that held the elegant miniature tree on the mahogany plant stand with presents proudly positioned beneath it, Mother again apologized because she had not bought the usual Scotch Pine Christmas tree.
As I thought of her previous months’ struggle with emergency eye surgery and her severely distorted vision, her inability to read or drive, and her constant travels to doctors hundreds of miles away, I found it purely amazing that she had erected a Christmas tree at all… Much less this small elegant bearer of Christmas lights that proudly stood sentinel over the presents that adorned its tall mahogany base.
Mother, a Christmas tree’s value is not judged by its height or fullness…nor its impact and importance by its number and wattage of lights. That small, elegant tribute to the traditions of Christmas was there only because you were determined to have a tree for us…even if it wasn’t the usual Scotch Pine tree for Christmas.
Some people give us gifts for Christmas…and some people, like you, just give us Christmas. And, because of that … because of you … that small tree stood much taller and shone much brighter than any Scotch Pine tree we ever could have had for Christmas.
No, Mother didn’t buy her usual Scotch Pine tree for Christmas that year. She left the well-worn red and green glossy balls, the traditional satin ornaments and the elegant jeweled velvet doves packed away in cardboard boxes in the third-floor attic at Boxwood. She gave us instead a small bit of greenery, a big heart, and the true gift of Christmas … Love.