Oh Christmas Tree

The year my parents separated was a difficult one. While we all knew it was a long time coming, when my mom moved into her new home in the fall of 2003 and we were all licking our wounds and sorting out our emotions. The fact that I was 19 and also pregnant didn’t help matters much. By the yuletide that winter I was five months along. Our family as a whole was beginning to show remarkable likenesses to the dysfunctional families one observes in a LifeTime movie special.

My family has always had the wonderful ability to draw humor out of tremendously uncomfortable situations. We are all naturally cynical, with the exception of my mother who tends to believe that fairies, unicorns and doilies are necessary items for everyday living. So, naturally as Christmas rolled around there were lots of jokes about “decking the halls”. We “undecked” the halls of our former home, which was beautiful and rather spacious. We “redecked”the halls of our mother’s new home, frantically trying to establish new roots in a house that was the size of a shoebox and partially renovated. There were also several comments about how we hoped “mom wouldn’t deck dad in the halls” if he forgot to buy the Christmas tree.

Supposedly to ease us through this transitional period, mom invited dad to join us for Christmas dinner at her new home. Never mind the fact that they had fought like cats and dogs for the past two decades, I guess my mom was really in the holiday spirit. She tasked him solely with providing the Christmas tree. If you knew my father you would know the man is nothing if not unreliable. Doesn’t remember birthdays, social security numbers, doctors appointments, recitals, a simple grocery list and has been known to leave children as collateral at a store when he has forgotten his wallet (it happened at least once to all three of us). So, when he showed up two days before Christmas with a shrub in a burlap sack, we were simply amazed that he brought anything at all. He announced there were no more Christmas trees to be had in western Pennsylvania and that this bush was to be our precious tannenbaum. In all honesty it wasn’t as hideous once it was decorated, or maybe it’s just the fact that enough time has passed to make everything seem less atrocious. Though, there is the lovely water stain the sack left behind on my mom’s new floor. We tried convincing my mom that you could see baby Jesus in it and that it was a Christmas miracle, but she never really bought it.

This Christmas stands out to me mostly because of this huge change and our ability to minimize it with humor. Sure, I was pregnant and on the cusp of an entirely new and difficult journey of my own, but at that time I was still just a daughter myself. We could have just said screw it, no Christmas this year, but we pulled ranks and had our very own dilapidated Charlie Brown shin dig.

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