This story has been re-told each Christmas for the past 13 years, but this is its first appearance in written form.
Once upon a time…
We were poor. You know, like freshly-wedded, tuition-paying, diploma-earning, employment-seeking, future-awaiting kind of poor–our matrimonial union a mere four months old.
I laid my last college final on the professor’s desk – a blue essay book overfilled with rapidly scribbled responses to essay questions like: What role did the head of the United States CIA play in the downfall of the Guatemalan economic system?
I exited the humanities building and entered the student center, intending to visit the display of the campus clubs Christmas Tree Decorating Contest. The December sun poured through gigantic skylights and bathed me with rays of my bright future and sunny holidays with no papers, finals, or boring texts. I began to daydream about my upcoming first Christmas with my new hubba-hubba husband. Just then, a whale-ish black cloud swallowed the sun, plunging the Taggart Student Center into darkness, and I remembered our bare, Christmas-less apartment.
I’d spent my last two Christmas’s breaking dry baguettes with equally homesick companions in cold-floored, bare-walled, Christmas-less missionary apartments. More than anything, I wanted a warm, homey Christmas with all the trimmings.
My melancholy deepened as I passed the remains of what had been the Christmas tree display. Pine needles, scraps of tinsel, and a few remnants of broken ornaments dirtied the floor, which begged for a deep vacuuming. Too busy cramming for finals, I hadn’t walked through the tree festival before, I hadn’t expected it to be gone so soon. I hung my head feeling a lot like Charlie Brown.
Then, in the far corner, looking very cast-off and unwanted, I spied four naked trees.
Let me interrupt the story here to explain that the universe and I have an unspoken agreement–I will never buy anything without a coupon, and the universe will provide me just enough opportunities to mooch, beg, rummage or win the barest necessities of luxury.
Suddenly filled with Christmas optimism, I bounded up the stairs to bother the Student Body President.
Hello, um, Mr. President, Sir. There are some trees downstairs that look like they’ve been sentenced to Christmas at the Logan landfill. I’m married and poor, you see, and if they’re just going to the trash, I’d be happy to take one off your hands.
Well, Mrs. Poor & Married (or was it Mrs. Married and Poor?). Anyway, we donated the decorated trees to the Salvation Army for needy families. However, one tree was too big to fit in our truck and we don’t know what to do with it. If you can haul it away, it’s yours.
No Problem. I’ll go get my newlywed semi-truck. But… I didn’t see a decorated tree.
My committee left that tree by the back doors. It has white lights, gold angels and musical instruments like violins and trumpets and stuff. Merry Christmas, Mrs. Married.
Skipping two stairs at a time, I raced to meet my new, fully decorated, and free Christmas tree.
Holy oxen and wise men.
six trumpets and french horns,
golden apples and golden pears,
over-sized burgundy flowers,
red and gold ribbon,
artificial and live foliage,
seven strands of white lights,
an extension cord,
two tree skirts,
a tree stand.
How we got the tree back to our formerly bare apartment is another story entirely. (Picture hubba-husband crouched deep into the trunk of an Oldsmobile four door sedan straddling and clinging to the prickly bark of a biggie-sized Blue Spruce shouting “Slow down, honey, we lost an angel.”)
Pulling into our designated apartment complex parking spot, we unloaded the tree, unlocked the apartment, wriggled the branches through the door, replaced the fallen angel, plugged in the lights, snapped our fingers, and Abracadabra folks, instant Christmas!
Staring awestruck at our stroke of good fortune, hubba-hubbie said,
This is the most beautiful Christmas tree I have ever seen. Of all the clubs and organizations on the USU campus, which one decorated this tree?
Well, until that very day, I hadn’t even known the club existed at USU in 1997.
This tree was the creative product of the Gay and Lesbian Club of Utah State University.
Now, every Christmas when hubba and I drape the gold ribbons, hang the harps, trumpets and angels, we give thanks in our hearts for their talent, artistry, and generosity.