The nostalgia will set in this week. It comes every year around Thanksgiving when I’m making my mom’s stuffing, and it will last through January if I am lucky. The nostalgia is multi-faceted now. Not only do I reminisce about my youth and the holidays back home, I think about, and covet, the memories of the boys when they were small—so small we all still believed that anything was possible during Christmastime.
I grew up in a rather typical middle-class neighborhood in New Jersey. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we always had food and a roof over our heads. Daddy worked from the time he got up in the morning till the moment his head hit the pillow for a short nap before he headed to his night job as a dispatcher for a trucking company. He and my mom were raised in the hills of Virginia, around Bluefield, and daddy only finished sixth grade before he started to work full time. He was a frugal but skilled man with a jovial disposition. He taught me a lot about being strong and finding different ways to tackle my problems.
I remember one year he came home with two Christmas trees from a local lot. They were terrible-looking things. Both were awfully sparse with large gaps between the limbs. It was the kind of tree that no one really wanted and so daddy was able to buy them for a song. I didn’t know it at the time but it must have been a tough Christmas financially that year. All I knew was I felt embarrassed that I might have to show my friends one of those trees in our house. Even with decorations, it would be the worst.
We can all see what’s wrong and ugly in the world. It is up to us to piece together what’s right and create something we can enjoy and share.
Daddy wasn’t fazed by the way they looked. He often saw potential when I didn’t. I helped drag those trees out to his workshop and then dad set to work sawing and drilling and working for what seemed like hours. When he came out from his work, he held one of the most beautiful trees I’d ever seen. It was a tree he’d pieced together by cutting the limbs from the one, drilling holes in the other, and placing the green boughs in exactly the right places to fill out the look of the tree. I couldn’t believe how full it was and was excited to get it into the house and decorate it. It was magic.
Before he was done, daddy created holiday centerpieces from the leftover tree trunk. He drilled holes and cut branches fitting them into the smaller logs, drilled out larger holes for candles, and the neighbors paid for the centerpieces to show off on their tables. With dad’s vision, we had a beautiful tree and extra money for Christmas.
The pieced-together tree didn’t last too long. Of course, those boughs that daddy attached began to turn brown quickly, but for the time it stood, dressed in all of its lights and tinsel, it was the best tree in the world.
It was also a lesson my dad gave me from that particular holiday season. We can all see what’s wrong and ugly in the world. It is up to us to piece together what’s right and create something we can enjoy and share. I invite you to share your vision of joy with someone or someplace this holiday season. Whether you give your time, your donations, or your talents, piece together an opportunity to create something beautiful. It will be a gift.
Welcome, December. I’ve been waiting for you.