The Christmas trees we had when I was small were huge, and not just because I wasn't. Our living room was large and mom wanted a tree worthy of the room. She had the most beautiful vintage ornaments to put on the tree, and there were a lot of them. Oh, and bubble lights! Remember those? And tinsel and another string of lights that didn't twinkle-the bulbs were so large they shot bright, happy color out into the room.
I wasn't allowed to touch the ornaments or help put them on the tree. They were too expensive and too delicate for my chubby little fingers to handle. I just remember waking up some December morning, coming down the stairs and there it was: The Tree, sparkling, shiny and smiling; happy to be a part of our family even if only for a few weeks.
The first Christmas mom and I shared after my parents' divorce found us in a completely different circumstance. We were poor, we were living in a tiny "cabin" in the mountains of Colorado, and there was no money or room for a tree of any size at all.
We had found a smallish tumbleweed during one of our drives and had fallen in love with it. Since we were from the Midwest we'd never seen one before, so for us, that tumbleweed was a treasure. We kept it and brought it home as one of our first Colorado souvenirs.
Well, as December rolled around I started thinking about Christmas and presents, all the baking mom used to do and of course, The Tree. We just didn't have room for one. Finally one evening, as mom sat in a chair she spotted our tumbleweed.
"Jude, why don't we use the tumbleweed for a tree?! I'll betcha no one else in the world has ever had a tumbleweed tree!"
So, that's what we did. Mom helped me prop the tumbleweed inside a coffee can. We took rocks and piled them up inside the can so the thing wouldn't fall over and then, much to my joy, mom let me decorate our "tree" all by myself. I found some red yarn and braided it together to make a garland; I carefully draped that over the delicate little twigs of the tumbleweed. Then I took toothpicks and made tiny god's eyes with more yarn and hung those from the branches.
Our little tree didn't have vintage ornaments or bubble lights. It didn't have any lights at all. But that tumbleweed is a tree I still remember and that memory is one I still treasure. My Mom could turn the most dreary circumstance into a happy moment with a cheerful word or two and her optimistic attitude and that's what she did that Christmas. She took what could've been a lonely, depressing moment in time and turned into something special. She made me feel like we were the lucky ones and gave me an irreplaceable memory.