Two Christmas windows made me smile last night.
The first was a generously lit multicolored tree filling a bow window. Translucent curtains muted the lights adding to a sense that this tree was really for the family inside. A long drive led to this warmly inviting, Christmas-card-perfect picture. This was the place worth singing about for Christmas homecomings, if only in our dreams.
The second was a table top tree barely glimpsed through a home’s side window. 15 lights, tops. A child’s bedroom? We had given our kids similar trees to decorate their own rooms years ago. A senior citizen avoiding the work of a big tree?
Whatever the story, someone inside was celebrating Christmas.
Amidst more extravagant outdoor displays, a simple tree lighting up a window remains my favorite and reminds me of my dad.
No one ever accused my dad of being a big spender. It’s not that he lacked generosity, but spending money on temporary things like Christmas trees seemed quite frivolous to him. So our family hunted the lots for a small tree and Dad haggled for a small price. Not quite Charlie Brown trees, but definitely not showy.
At home, Dad would arrange our short tree on a table beneath the picture window. From the outside it appeared as the top of a six foot tree rather than the entire three footer. Inside, the size didn’t matter. It was our tree and it was beautiful, drenched in the silver tinsel carefully saved from Christmas’ past.
In a few years our family changed along with our trees. Dad invested in an artificial green one, safely past the 60’s fad of silver trees. The tree was not the only artificial part of our family life during these years, but the ritual of celebrating Christmas together continued, however painful.
My happiest childhood Christmas memories lay beneath a puny tree. It was a time we were joyful to be together celebrating the advent of Jesus’ birth. A time when all the small gifts exchanged expressed love.
But outside our picture window no one ever saw the difference between our small tree years and the artificial ones.