COLUMNS

Sharon Randall: What is your true tree story?

The Examiner
Sharon Randall

Christmas at our house begins when we drag a tree in the living room, and ends when we drag it back out. But while it’s with us, the tree will tell stories that we’ll remember for years to come.

On Sunday after Thanksgiving my husband and I split the last piece of pumpkin pie, then drove to a Christmas tree lot to join dozens of other folks in face masks all hoping to find the best Christmas tree ever.

Marriage – as some of you may have noticed – is built upon compromise. Fortunately, my husband and I agree on most truly important things: What to eat. When to eat it. Whose turn it is to cook and clean up.

On the rare occasion when we disagree, we try to decide by weighing just how much the matter means to each of us.

Sharon Randall

For example: He cares more than I ever will about which games to watch on TV.

And I care a lot more than he does, apparently, about getting a Christmas tree that looks like a Christmas tree and not like a Christmas tree scrub brush.

He prefers the short, squatty variety that he can carry with one hand. I prefer a tree that I can look up to, one that’s at least a bit taller than I am, requires a strong back for lifting, but with no need for swearing.

After 15 years of marriage, we have agreed: He gets to pick the games to watch on TV. I get to pick our Christmas tree. But this time, we chose a tree together.

“How ’bout this one?” he said, pointing to the first tree we came to.

I laughed. It was perfect. More or less. We paid for it, tipped the kid who helped us stuff it in the car, drove home and dragged it inside. Now it’s standing in our living room, listing badly, as if it had a little too much eggnog.

Tomorrow, we’ll decorate it. But tonight, we’re sharing a pizza. Then he’ll watch a game on TV, and I’ll write a column.

Christmas trees create memories that will tell us, if we listen, the stories of our lives.

My earliest Christmas tree memory is from when I was 6. My parents were divorced. My mother had remarried. For some reason she decided we should get, not a real tree, but a fake monstrosity. It looked like a TV antenna covered in tin foil.

The day after Christmas, I boarded a Greyhound bus, waved goodbye to my mother and the ugly tree, and went to spend a lovely week with my dad on his parents’ farm.

When I told my grandmother about the fake tree, she said, “Your mother works too hard.”

The next morning, she woke me early. “Come see your Christmas tree,” she said, pointing to the window.

Snow was falling, turning everything white, except for one bright splash of red. At the top of a hemlock, a redbird sat perched, singing a birdsong version of “O Holy Night.”

I wish you could’ve heard it.

I remember other Christmas tree stories, too:

• The Scotch pine where I found my 2-year-old hiding after he’d pulled all the bows off the gifts and stuck them on his head.

• The Noble fir my kids and I decorated with their dad on our last Christmas together, a few weeks before he lost a four-year, hard-fought battle with cancer.

• The fake spruce I bought years later after I moved with my new husband to Las Vegas, and found that in the desert, a fresh cut tree rarely lasts a week.

I wonder what story we will tell in years to come about the tree we brought home today?

I hope it will be a story about a family that did its best in the midst of a pandemic to stay safe and well, to keep connected with friends and loved ones, and to celebrate like never before the promise of Christmas: Life.

Our tree doesn’t look like much yet. But we’ll cover it with white lights, red birds and lots of memories. It will tell a good story that I’ll want to retell.

What story will your tree tell this Christmas? I’d love to hear it. Here’s hoping it will be your best Christmas story ever.

Sharon Randall is the author of “The World and Then Some.” She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or at www.sharonrandall.com.