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“To tree or not to tree?” That is the question. For the last five years or so, my answer has been “NOT!” Now don’t get excited. I’m not a humbug, nor am I depressed, sick, decrepit, or even broke.
The events that turned me into the old lady down the street without a Christmas tree would hardly make a touching Hallmark commercial, let alone a holiday movie. Instead, a lowly business trip nestled right in the midst of tree trimming time followed by holiday travel brought my tinsel strewing days to a halt. There just wasn’t time.
My daughters were appalled. Wasn’t I the one who always spent weeks decorating as many as three Christmas trees? Wasn’t I the one who burned enough twinkle lights to ensure the holiday bonuses of the entire electric company many years running? Wasn’t I the one who taught them the meaning of Christmas and family and life?
The thoughts of me being treeless would ruin Christmas. I assured them I was treeless not homeless. It would be okay it was just for one year—next year I would reclaim my decoration diva title.
I lied.
I meant to keep my promise. A heartfelt vow to one’s children should always be kept…but let’s face it…they were grown with their own trees…Santa wasn’t looking for a place to stow gifts…for Pete’s sakes, I didn’t even have a chimney for Santa to squeeze down anymore.
Besides, in all honesty, not having a tree had been liberating. There was no driving home from the nursery with a ten-foot evergreen tethered precariously on top of my car. There was no fighting with gnarled garland. There were no lights that gave up the ghost as soon as the ornaments were hung. There were no spiky needles in the carpet for the next six months…and Miracle on Cotton Bay Drive…I was happy. I had plenty of holiday spirit, devoured mounds of delicious goodies (some of which I’m still sporting) and gave and received delightful gifts without so much as a Norfolk Pine in the living room.
When the holidays rolled around again reawakening my daughters’ visions of sugarplums and Mama’s Christmas tree, my heart knew it wasn’t going to happen but I didn’t have a business excuse that year. What I did have was a Labrador retriever whose tail could fell a tree swifter than Paul Bunyan’s ax and a cat to egg her on. So like millions of ill prepared schoolchildren the world over…I blamed it on the dog.
It’s doubtful they bought the excuse and I didn’t offer the empty promise of next year…we all knew it was over.
The excuses changed with each ensuing year…becoming more or less an exercise in creativity. My current house doesn’t have enough outlets…hey, that’s the honest truth and I’m not giving up my heating pad for twinkle lights!
What I’ve learned in my years of being treeless is that the true meaning of Christmas is not ten-foot tall and smells of spruce. The true meaning of Christmas is love and family and sharing and Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men.
As I’m learning to lead with my heart, my newfound freedom is spilling over into other areas of my life. I’m picking and choosing based on today’s pleasure not yesterday’s memories…knowing that I have the prerogative to change…as I choose. In fact, I have a granddaughter now and maybe, just maybe, next year Grammy will put up a tree…but then again…she’s little…she won’t know the difference…why start a new tradition…
The Ladies of ADK


PS…I have actually had a tree every year since I wrote this piece in 2006…I now have two granddaughters to decorate for…but this year…they are coming after Christmas…and I’m answering that famous question…NOT!

PSS…I shared this story during my recent visit with Alpha Delta Kappa…glad to say that they seemed to enjoy Bertha…as much as I enjoyed them…Hats off to educators!