Our first Christmas was the Christmas of a newly married couple of hippies who had been sweethearts for the previous three years in high school. I was not (am not) at all a very conventional sort, while my lovely wife has always been a very traditional homebody mom and wife. Now, I assumed, that first Christmas, that we would not be having a tree. I was not at all opposed to celebrating Christmas and I wasn’t interested to save money, etc – for me it was a matter of sorting through in my own head the ludicrous scheme before me. Chop down a tree and bring it into your house to celebrate the birth of Jesus . . ? . . it just struck me as such an absurd procedure that I couldn’t quite bring myself to participate (I kind of need a logical and practical reason for things – ‘everybody does’ or ‘that’s just the way it is’ just bounces right off of me).
Now, we didn’t have much; little money, no car, no decorations, minimal gifts for each other – but we did have three doggies . . . Dave, Ruth, and Larry. So, Christmas Eve I begin to sense my dear wife does not seem happy . . . this became observably clear when she began to weep. She wanted a Christmas tree. Apparently she had just been going along with my silliness, not wanting to be difficult, but now, at about 10 pm Christmas Eve, my darling was crying for a Christmas tree. So out I ventured into the cold dark night to give my baby our first Christmas tree.
Our last dog, and the best dog ever, Leonard.
Grandma sweetheart with just a few of her grandsons.
Just a block and a half away from our tiny apartment was a gas station selling trees, so I headed that way. Of course, everyone already had their tree and all the trees sales folks were nestled all warm in their beds – the place was dark and deserted. There were only three or four trees left, lying on the ground in a puddle, so I grabbed one by the trunk of one and, and, and was stopped dead in my tracks – the puddle was frozen solid and was not giving-up this tree. I had to walk back home and get a table knife (the closest thing I had to any manner of tool) and return to hack my wife’s tree loose.
. . . and hack and hack and hack. I was on my knees, with a table knife, no gloves, digging away in the dark trying to free a ragged old Christmas tree from an ice puddle in the lot of an abandoned gas station, for at least an hour. By the time I dragged that tree down the road and in the house I was spent – I got a cinder block from the side of the house, put in a corner and stuck the tree in it leaning against the wall. We stuck our couple gifts to each other, and to our puppies, under the tree and went to bed.