Christmas Tree Chronicles

Do you remember that first Christmas tree you, as an adult, hauled home?

Maybe you and your beloved cut a fragrant evergreen at a Christmas tree farm amid silvery snowfall.

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay.

Or you procured a Charlie Brown escapee. Maybe spent a precious dollar on a Salvation Army find.

I wish we, as newlyweds, had considered those alternatives. We had saved $50 for Christmas. Total. We possessed no lights or ornaments. We spent our bankroll on family gifts instead.

However, learning of our treeless holiday, neighbors offered bottom branches removed from theirs. Humming “Deck the Halls,” I accented the pine-scented boughs with little red balls.

Voilà! Christmas!

The next year, I vowed to have a tree, though possibly decorated with popcorn strings and spray-painted macaroni — and the red balls.

My sister-in-law to the rescue: “Why didn’t you tell us you needed Christmas stuff? Mom gave us bunches.”

How I celebrated that tree in our government-subsidized apartment! We’d never go without one again — though some Decembers proved more adventurous than others.

Later, when Hubby was training day and night at a hospital, I stuffed our Christmas tree into our only car’s trunk.

Whew! Now to drag it downstairs to our basement apartment. Except, where were my keys?

With the tree. In the trunk.

Did I mention I was pregnant?

After a grand tour per city bus, I finally arrived at Hubby’s hospital. They paged him: “Dr. Phillips. Dr. Phillips. Your wife locked her keys in the car. Please report to the front desk.”

He displayed zero Christmas spirit, but he handed me his keys. After another city tour, I drove myself and the tree home.

Little did I know what Christmas tree tribulations awaited me as a parent.

The following year, Hubby and I set up the tree in our daughter’s playpen.

Why didn’t we corral her instead?

Child-raising theories then advocated free-range offspring. No dastardly playpen for our baby.

As our family expanded, Christmas ideals shrank to survival for us, the kids, and the tree. Trying to hide it from rampaging toddlers, we moved the tree to different locations each year. All in vain. Our son’s destructo gene zeroed in. I covered the tree’s lower branches with harmless ornaments, hoping he would eat those.

He climbed it.

To this day, I don’t know if our son consumed broken ornaments. He is 30-plus now, so I guess the destructo gene was linked to another granting him an iron stomach.

This year, our empty-nest tree mostly fears my smacking it with the vacuum. With no inkling of its predecessors’ sufferings, it basks in gentle serenity, glowing with lights, tinsel and memories.

Unnoticed, little red balls, polished by 45 Christmases, still shine.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What Christmas-tree tale can you tell?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Be Thankful for Weird Grandmas

O Lord, I’m not sure what the older grandkids thought when they opened their Thanksgiving packages. But thank You the little guys loved the noisy, gobbling stuffed turkeys their weird grandma sent. And, OMG, thank You that my children and their spouses didn’t write me off forever.  

Weird Things for Which I Am Thankful 2020

Anyone here like Christmas better than Thanksgiving?

With God’s incredible gift of His Son, family celebrations, music, decorations and food, it doesn’t get any better than that.

But families also express gratitude for each other at Thanksgiving, for freedom, health and — last, but not least — hope through Christ. Along with the food, it doesn’t get any better than that.

I’m forced to enjoy a draw, nixing healthy eating until a January Judgment Day.

I also want to express gratitude for little blessings — even weird ones — that seldom receive a nod or notice:

Fuzzy bathroom rugs. These don’t rank up there with world peace or an Indianapolis Colts victory, but on chilly mornings, they mean everything to wet, freezing toes.

Combines blocking the road. Already late, I forget these are a blessing. Other drivers’ gestures indicate they forget, too. But these bulky, balky monsters and hardworking farmers ensure food on our tables.

Bananas. With this nutritious, easy-open, eco-friendly fruit — no refrigeration necessary — our children thrived. True, bananas’ squishability, the babies’ sticky reaches and my long hair proved problematic. Still, they blessed lunch boxes and trips. When emergencies interrupted my skinny physician husband’s meals, I sent bananas with him to eat on the way.

Today, neither of us worry about weight loss. Still, we’re glad bananas will be around for our future, with or without teeth.

The color purple. What would we do without purple violets and irises, plums and eggplants? Without royal velvets and wild purple storm clouds — and essentials like Grape Slushies and Super Bubble Gum?

My 2010 car. New models map routes, parallel park and warm butts. Some drivers, though, given a Starship Enterprise dashboard, threaten the universe. Even driving my old Ford, I’ve occasionally popped the hood when I meant to open the trunk. If I tried to warm my posterior while driving 70 miles per hour, I’d hit the parallel parking mechanism.

I’m thankful for my simple, old car. You should be, too.

Ranch dressing, available only since the 1980s. How did we as a civilization survive without it?

Free parking lots. Metropolitan drivers spend hundreds to park in scary garages. I revel in nearly unlimited free parking, saving my neck, my bucks and my sanity.

Bankers without firearms. I’ve entered Honduran banks where guards accessorized with ammunition belts and machine guns. I’m thankful my bankers are armed only with smiles.

Gardeners who plant prairie grass. They validate those of us who grow it unintentionally.

Finally, I’m thankful I never played the turkey in a school production.

Still debating whether you like Thanksgiving or Christmas most? It’s a draw, right?

A draw for the turkey, too.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Can you list weird things for which you’re thankful?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Saying Thank you Is Hard!

O Lord, when I was a kid, gratitude didn’t come easy. Mom would prompt, “What do you say?” and I’d mutter the “Thank you” that got grown-ups off my back. In 2020, it doesn’t come easy, either. Still, OMG, thank You. Thank You. Thank You!  

Hurray for Bossy Big Sisters!

Bossy Big Sisters often receive bad press, so I am setting the world straight.

My siblings and me in the 1960s.

You think I’ve got attitude? If you’d just listen occasionally, you’d find Bossy Big Sisters can prove very inspirational.

We even find them in the Bible. Few remember Moses’ big sister Miriam got stuck babysitting as Moses floated among the bulrushes. The Nile crocodiles probably weren’t as friendly as those on Animal Planet. Without Miriam’s help, Moses wouldn’t have survived in one piece to receive the Ten Commandments. But when he became a big shot in Pharaoh’s palace, do you think he remembered Miriam gave up Saturdays with her friends to save his hide? No-o-o.

In the New Testament, Martha (last name Stewart?) got carried away, fixing a fancy dinner party for Jesus. Her sister Mary didn’t show sufficient concern about presentation. Jesus had to remind Martha that God really didn’t care about matching napkin rings. On the other hand, if Mary had been in charge, Jesus and his hungry disciples might still be waiting for hamburgers.

Inspired by these Bossy Big Sisters, I shared important medical facts with my younger siblings. My sister would not have known she was born with a brick in her stomach if I had not informed her. Nor would she have realized the dangers of swallowing watermelon seeds. First, I said, green vines would curl out of our eyes and ears. Left unchecked, these seeds might even produce big watermelons in our bellies — either melons or babies, I wasn’t sure. I spat all watermelon seeds off the porch and advised my sister to take similar precautions.

Fortunately, I passed the Bossy Big Sister gene down to both my daughters. The elder educated the younger about shooting stars hovering over a nearby playground. The evidence? Brown rocks, the remains of flaming asteroids, had landed under swings and slides. Little Sis sifted patiently through tons of gravel, spending whole afternoons looking for “shooting stars” while her sister played with friends in peace.

Apparently, Big Sis’s fine teaching qualities rubbed off on Little Sis. She later set up a school for her younger brother, complete with chalkboard, assignments and recess, when she forced him to play outside, whether he wanted to or not. But when Little Bro started kindergarten, he knew how to multiply.

Our children circa 1988.

Big Sis and her husband later supplied our family with an outstanding Bossy Big Sister, who has fulfilled her moral duty in educating her younger brothers. She’s saved them from crocodiles, conducted divine dinner parties with matching napkin rings, warned them regarding watermelon seeds, and locked them outside for recess.

With her fortitude, her little brothers will go far.

They’d better.

Our grandchildren circa 2010.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Does your family include a Bossy Big Sister?

Our House, a Museum?

When my family visited Grandma and Grandpa, no staged historical setup could rival their living museum.

Neither learned to drive. When they left their tiny town — a rarity — they took a Greyhound bus.

Grandpa plowed with a horse named John. Grandma wore sunbonnets while gardening and bringing cows home. The animals obligingly produced creamy milk my grandparents churned, plunging the dasher up-down, up-down. I could barely raise it, but Grandma helped me shape butter in a wooden mold etched with flowers.

They drew water from a well. Its iciness felt good on steamy days when we bathed in washtubs.

Image by HomeMaker from Pixabay.

Grandma and Grandpa didn’t own a television. We grandkids barely survived a week without “Gilligan’s Island,” almost forgetting the words to the theme song (gasp)!

To our dismay, our grandparents’ diet centered on their garden’s produce — collards, okra, and black-eyed peas. At night, smothered in featherbeds on sweaty, 90-degree nights, we wondered if we’d live to see the light of day.

I decided I would never grow that old. My house would never become a museum.

Fast-forward several decades. Our grandson stares at our phone. “You have a landline?”

His tone implies, do you also wear a bustle?

“Yes,” I said, “but we own smartphones, too.”

When I demonstrate I can turn mine on, he looks relieved. Still — “What’s that curly thing on your landline?”

“A cord. All phones used to have them.” I chuckle. “Does look like a Slinky.”

“What’s a Slinky?”

While Hubby and I possess reasonably current laptops and tablet, our grandchildren, accustomed to über-fast technology, consider them fossils, incapable of supporting all-important video games. One child even asks where we dug them up.

We attempt board games instead, playing our own Trivial Pursuit. The teens didn’t know a thing about Betty Ford, leisure suits or other crucial 1970s facts.

Even our children consider us relics. Why? Just because we drive a 10-year-old sedan. Because I play a piano powered up only by my fingers. That not only stacks of CDs and DVDs clutter our home, but cassette tapes I rewind with a pencil point because boom boxes’ features have died. We even own a turntable and vinyl records.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay.

Our kids try to update us. Now proud owners of a Keurig® coffee maker, Hubby and I claim to be cool.

In return, we attempt to give them perspective: “Hey, we possess items older than we are.”

Grandma and Grandpa Oglesbee, my dad’s parents.

When they stare in disbelief, we point to Great-grandma Norris’s china and silverware. Great-grandma Phillips’s wedding chest. Great-uncle Clarence’s World War II flag with 48 stars.

They are visiting a museum for free, too.

That’s what grandparents are for, right?

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What relics resided in your grandparents’ home — besides them?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Happy Birthday, Dad

Lord, Thank You that Dad is celebrating his 93rd birthday in heaven. You know that he pranked fellow pastors with fake calls (“Reveren’, me and my wife is havin’ problems …”) and sometimes answered his phone with “Joe’s Bar.” With a fishing rod, he once cast a jelly doughnut amid his church’s weight-watching group. But OMG, Dad always was and now forever is crazy for You. 

At Home with the Temporary

Hubby and I labeled our new home’s difficulties as “temporary.”

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines that word as “lasting for a limited time.” As in, “This sparkly 1970s wallpaper is temporary.” Or, “This white carpet where kids held pop-spitting parties is temporary.”

In remodeling timelines, “temporary” resembles a blank, signed check.

We should have known better, having delayed remodeling our former house until we’d lived there 23 years. Then spent big bucks making it irresistible … so we could sell it.

Now, 11 years later, “temporary” has caught up with us again.

We’ve made some improvements: new siding, roof, and landscaping. Hubby painted the ugly, “temporary” black front door.

He says it’s orange.

I say it’s terra cotta.

Which illustrates two reasons we procrastinate in updating our home:

  1. Hubby is male.
  2. I am female.

This complicates the simplest project, yet we’ve made progress. After only 45 years of marriage, we not only like our terra cotta/orange door, we arrange decorative pillows on our bed without debate. Hubby keeps the plain one on his side. The fancy one goes on mine.

Surely, we can now agree whether to paint kitchen cabinets Blue Sand or Eggshell Ecstasy.

Hubby’s eyes narrow. “Have you ever seen blue sand? Anywhere?”

Image by Alexas Fotos from Pixabay.

I haven’t experienced ecstasy boiling eggs, either. However, I don’t want to extend a discussion about color misrepresentation to blank-check proportions. Then the cabinets will go unpainted another decade.

But a decade is temporary. Not forever.

It just seems like it.

Hubby, a reasonably skilled handyman, could shorten makeover timespans if he were married to a better assistant.

We attempted wallpapering together. Once.

Everything I touched turned to trapezoids.

No matter how carefully I measured. No matter how many tutorial videos I watched.

I should create one for homeowners like myself. I would condense “Seven Simple Steps to Your House’s Total Makeover” to “Two Simple Steps”:

  1. Light a match.
  2. Burn the place down.

But then, I’d have to move again, probably to jail. Even wallpapering with Hubby seems preferable. Though he might feel differently …

I suggest another option, in which we could forego painting the kitchen and cabinets and installing new counters and —

“New counters?” Hubby’s eyes narrow again. “Since when?”

Surely, I say, if we paint the kitchen, we should replace ancient, discolored counters. The flooring’s nicked, too.

“If remodeling seems overwhelming,” I say brightly, “we can move to a different house.”

After we sink a ton of money and work into our present home to sell it.

Before moving to another house with temporary sparkly wallpaper. Temporary stained kitchen counters. And temporary carpet somebody showered with Blue Sand …

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you at home with the temporary?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Hope for Us Scragglies

O Lord, Hubby and I just planted Scraggly the Lilac. Maybe his fellow shrubs voted him least likely to succeed? Next spring, though, we expect a resurrection. Father, some Mondays I feel like Scraggly. But OMG, thank You that Jesus’ Resurrection helps us blossom and share in His incredible fragrance!