As Brent and Kay drove to the Boy Scout’s Christmas tree sale in Shopper’s City parking lot, merry thoughts pranced through Kay’s head. Their first Christmas as husband and wife. It would be a holiday of her dreams—she just knew it and the perfect tree was just the beginning. She couldn’t wait to pick out the balsam fir that would stand in the corner of their living room, its fresh pine smell filling the house with the reminder that Christmas season had arrived. She knew exactly what the tree would look like, the strings of big lights glowing, lots of lights, showcasing the ornaments and glistening off the tinsel, the star crowning the tree and directing all eyes to the nativity set that she would place below the tree.
Her mother had given her Grandma’s old set as a bridal shower gift, and Kay was looking forward to using the heirloom for the first time. She couldn’t wait to create a manger scene, just like her family always did. She’d wrap a white bed sheet under the tree to represent snow and to hide the tree stand. Underneath the sheet she’d pile books at various strategic spots. There’d be the mountains and hills. The shepherds and their hut decorated one of these, sheep randomly dotting the hill and at the bottom, a “pond,” represented by a purse mirror, would lie, a few sheep lapping from its “water,” a shepherd or two watching over that part of the flock. And of course, angels would grace the scene bringing the “glad tidings” to the shepherds. Luckily, she had happened upon a sale of nativity figures at Woolworth’s earlier and picked up some extra angels. Some of Grandma’s figurines were too defaced now with chips here and there from years of use.
The wise men and their camels on the other side of the tree would climb another hill in their journey to Jesus. In the center of it all, the focal point, would be the manger topped with another star. Inside she’d scatter some bits of straw and in the corners would lie Mary’s donkey on the left side and a cow on the right. Jesus’s “guardian angel” would kneel between the two animals. She’d place Mary in front of her donkey and Joseph in front of the cow. In the center, in front of the angel and in between the kneeling Mary and Joseph, Jesus would lie in his manger bed filled with bits of straw for his newborn comfort.
Kay’s eyes filled with tears of joy and anticipation and she leaned her head back on the headrest as she savored her dreams.
Meanwhile, Brent was building the Christmas-tree scene of his childhood dreams. He couldn’t wait to find the best Norway, maybe Scotch, pine and decorate it with a few little lights—too many looked garish—that would highlight the ornaments and garland just enough. Underneath the tree he could picture the festive Christmas-tree skirt he planned on buying at Shopper’s City once he and Kay bought their tree. He hoped they could find a skirt like his family’s, adorned with poinsettias and Santa and his reindeer flying through the sky. On top of the skirt, he envisioned the Christmas gifts wrapped with colorful Christmas paper and bows, enticing in anticipation of Christmas. So many gifts, that most of the Christmas tree skirt would become almost invisible. At the top of the tree he’d place an angel, sparkling in gold, hands open in welcome to all who entered their home during the season.
Brent could feel the nostalgia of past Christmases and family traditions fill his heart and head as he drove into Shopper’s City parking lot and stopped the car close to the trees.
“Are you ready, Sweetie?” he asked as he turned and smiled at Kay, his eyes twinkling like the lights he hoped would adorn the tree.
“I can’t wait!” she said smiling at Brent in return, her eyes reflecting his excitement.
Arm in arm, they walked toward the awaiting snow-dusted trees leaning against the exterior fence. At the same moment they both took a breath of the pine-scented air, almost like one person, of one mind. Brent looked at Kay and gave her a quick kiss on the forehead. “Let’s go!” he said, as he turned to the left toward the Norways and Scotch. However, he was stopped by a tug. Kay was turning in the opposite direction. “I thought we were going to get a tree,” he said.
“We are, Honey,” said Kay. “They’re over this way.”
“No, they’re over here. See the Norway and Scotch pines this way?”
“Norway and Scotch? Those aren’t Christmas trees,” Kay said as she shook her head and gave a little laugh. “Those are just big bushes. The ornaments don’t even show up on them. Balsam is a Christmas tree.”
“But we always have Norway or Scotch,” explained Brent.
“Well, then you’ve never had a real Christmas tree,” Kay said as she tried to pull Brent closer to the balsams.
The newlyweds were in for a not-so-festive, long night full of discovery.