Op-Ed – December 2009

By Maggie Van Ostrand
The Crookedest Christmas Tree

Thermaggie-colore’s something obscene with spending so much money at Christmastime. It’s not like we’re the Three Wise Men hiking across the desert to gift the baby Jesus. I don’t even know what frankincense is, let alone myrrh. So let’s get down to the important stuff, like the Christmas tree itself.

One long-ago year, my Dad was out of work, much as fathers are today, and he was determined to have a tree just the same. All four of us, Dad, Mom, my sister and I, went to McNally’s, the local man who sold trees on an empty lot only at that time of year. We couldn’t afford any but the worst looking thing on the entire lot. To call it “scrawny” would’ve been a compliment. It had a skinny trunk an 8-year-old could put her thumb and forefinger completely around and it was not blessed with more than half a dozen nearly bald branches. Besides all that, it tilted like the Tower of Pisa.

Undaunted, Dad fished a dime out of his pocket and bought it, and for a nickel, the man sold him some loose boughs. One good thing about that tree was that it was the lightest one to carry home. Upon arrival, Dad started to use his imagination, like a person would do in getting a makeover. He found the spot where the tree had started to bend, making it tilt, and sawed the trunk off beneath that spot. When he finished, the tree was much shorter, but at least it was straight. He then drilled holes all over the rest of the trunk, filed down the woody end of the boughs into points, and pushed them into the holes. Mom looked on approvingly, and my sister and I finally began to see Dad’s master plan go into effect. The crookedest tree on McNally’s lot was beginning to look like a Christmas tree after all.

We couldn’t use tree lights, for the wiring would be too much weight for the rough-hewn branches to bear, so Mom had us get the box of burnished ornaments from the attic, charging us with locating the smallest ones, the ones our paternal grandmother had brought when she emigrated from Germany. She gently placed these treasures upon the homemade boughs, and let us help her finish the job with several boxes of tinsel.

New York’s Rockefeller Center may feature a mythical tree to be seen in person or on television every year, gloriously resplendent with color, lights, and tradition.

But for us on a penniless Christmas Eve, that short, scraggy, slanted little tree was transformed before our very eyes into a beautiful, straight, and shining example of what Christmas is really all about. Imagination. Creativity. Love.

Merry Christmas to all.


Ojo Del Lago
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