I will be the first to admit that we have had a multi-year battle with Christmas trees. I know I wrote earlier of our experiences trying to get a “real” tree for Christmas when we lived in the Black Hills, but since 2001, we have reverted back to the “fake” tree that comes from a box. Our big trouble is that the original artificial we bought at Dayton’s, when Daytons existed, was a wonderful tree. It’s kind of like when you own a car, and it is just right for what you want – it drives well, no rattles, great gas mileage, maneuvers great – and then for some reason, your brain switches off and you “think” you need a new car, so you trade off the best car you’ve ever owned for a new model, which is a terrible disappointment, but there is no turning back to yesteryear. We had the great tree for 14 years, but when we moved to Rapid City, we decided to include it in our massive rummage sale, and it was gone. (insert tear drop here)
So, for the last 19 years, we have probably owned 5 or 6 trees, of various shapes and sizes. And they haven’t been cheap, either! Some have been pre-lit and some have taken as much time to assemble as it would be to grow a tree for Christmas… they have all fallen short. For some reason, the second to the last tree we owned wasn’t cutting the mustard (strange phrase, don’t you think?), and so “we” decided that “we” needed yet another new tree. So, last year, as we decided not to wait until 10 days before Christmas, Cheri and I went out tree shopping. I would highly recommend that you never undertake this errand with someone you love. I am still amazed that someone who caught my heart, and is close to a near-perfect woman could have such lousy tastes in Christmas trees! Every one we saw was too small, too big, too wrong-branchy, too I-just-don’t-like-it. When I finally reminded her for the hundredth time that we have 20 foot ceilings in our house, and that a taller tree would work just fine, she selected one that “would do.”
I then started to make arrangements to give away the “old” tree that was about two years old, that we have been able to store put together in our storage room, when my beloved waved me off. “Maybe one of the boys could use it when they get their own place…” My ideas that they could go out and buy themselves a tree of their choosing, like we did when we had our first place, or that they aren’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future, so we are just supposed to store an unused Christmas tree for years? – didn’t work, so indeed, last year we put up the “new” tree and left the “old” tree in the storage room. Lights and all.
It’s been a long year, as you know. Lots of changes, and dynamics and more. I normally plan for us to put up the tree after the two December birthdays, ending with Cheri’s this coming Sunday. It still gives us 12 days before Christmas to have a tree up. This year, however, of course had to be different. Cheri waited until I had to run an errand and as I was leaving, she yelled sweetly, “Maybe I’ll get the boys to bring the tree up.” This would constitute an entire 7 day advance of tree-putting-up protocol. However, the idea that I would not have to tug and push a tree up the stairs was inviting, so I said, “Sure – go ahead. Just make sure you get the RIGHT tree.” I said that FOUR times. Be sure to get the right tree, because remember, you didn’t want to get rid of the old one, so it’s down there too. Be sure to get the RIGHT tree…
When I came home, I walked into the living room, and indeed, to my absolute non-surprise, they brought up… the WRONG tree. It was the tree of Christmas past, the tree that couldn’t be tossed, and yet never to be used again… we then began the discussion of “why did you bring up the wrong tree? There are two trees down there, and that’s why I said four times to make sure you get the right one…” Cheri was adamant that this was the only tree down there. I politely disagreed, but with it upright and standing in the living room without needing my effort, I said, “Fine – this is probably the tree we need to use this year.” Given all that has happened, it just seems to make sense that this tree – not the nice new big one with only one year under its belt – would be our tree for CoVid 2020.
Cheri was still convinced that I was wrong, and that this was the only tree, when I quietly asked, “Did you pull this tree out of the box that we put the new tree back in to store last year?” It became rather quiet in the room. “Oh, the box… I forgot about that – I didn’t look for the box.”
Now, after almost 40 years, and with dating included, almost 44 years, I’ve finally begun to learn when to speak and when to only speak inside my own brain… Inside my brain, I said, “THAT’S why I told you to make sure you get the right tree! Of course, this is the wrong tree, but you knew better, didn’t you?” Outside my brain, however, I said, “You know, this tree is perfect for us this year. Let’s plug it in and make sure the bulbs work…” We actually went on a few more minutes chatting about going back downstairs and getting the right tree and on and on.
In the end, we have the wrong tree for Christmas. It actually looks pretty good, and I wonder now why we decided it didn’t work well. When we put the ornaments on it – after this coming Sunday – I think it will look great. And how fun to think we will have a practically new tree next year – in a box – that we can use when hopefully the world is an intentionally better place.
So, between you and me, I was right. And between you and me – it just doesn’t matter. Part of living an intentional life is also coming to learn each day how to think and speak and act what you intend for the world – and those you love – to experience about you. And just like Thumper’s mom told him, which is a great lesson for each of us, especially as anxiety rises, and people become more reactive than responsive: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. ‘Nuff said.
Word for the day: vagient. Pronounced VAJ-yunt. Of course, once again, it looks like a word coming from Latin roots, but I consider it peculiar for what it means. It comes from vagire, meaning “to cry like a baby, or young child.” Apparently it has the same negative, immature connotation that we use when we criticize someone and tell them, “C’mon – don’t be a baby about this…” The Romans had a different word, or words for an adult crying or weeping – it was flere, and somehow the impact of the word meant that you could weep in a mature manner, instead of bawling, and sobbing your eyes out.
Of course, now that wonderful Christmas carol makes sense: The cattle are lowing, the poor baby wakes, but little Lord Jesus… is not vagient. Kind of plucks at your heart strings, doesn’t it?
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.