When I reflect on all the major decisions I’ve made alone since my husband’s death, I think he would have approved of all of them…except one. He’d shake his head over the fact I went fake.
Not boobs. Christmas tree.
For many Christmases, our family would drive north, stop for breakfast at the same diner and sit in the same booth. Then we would drive to the Christmas tree farm, grab a wagon and a saw, and search the farm for the “perfect” tree. Every year the girls would scream, “I found it!” and they would crouch on the ground next to a scrawny little fir stalk that would make even Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree look plush in comparison. Never got old.
Eventually, we did find the perfect tree, and Pat would go all Paul Bunyan on this miraculous bit of nature that would serve as the centerpiece of our holiday enjoyment. Once home, he would fight with the Christmas tree stand, often sawing and sweating more than anticipated. My favorite was the year he threw up his hands, diagnosed our tree with scoliosis and declared it The Year of Crooked Christmas. He put an eye hook in the ceiling and anchored the tree with fishing wire.
Our first Christmas without Pat, the girls and I agreed that we wouldn’t be able to continue that tradition for a lot of reasons, so we went fake. Now we sweat more than anticipated while dragging this big fake tree up from the basement every year.
Then our tradition picks up where it left off, and we watch Frank Capra’s classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life as we decorate our tree. As ornaments are pulled out of the box, the conversation bounces between “Ooh, remember this one?” and reciting lines from the movie along with the characters.
You could more than fill a book with the life lessons that George Bailey, Mr. Potter, Clarence and, in fact, every character imparts as the story unfolds.
George is told that he’s been given a great gift in being able to see what the world would have been like had he never been born. The holiday season invites us all to reflect on the “ripple effect” our words and actions have on others.
It’s easy to imagine the positive impact a donation to the giving tree at church or a food bank might have for someone in need. What is more difficult to admit is the ripple effect my short-tempered words of frustration might have on someone. Patience is often in short supply during the holidays, and sadly, those I love are most often directly impacted.
This holiday I’m going to strive to make the ripple effect of my words and actions a little more George Bailey and a little less Mr. Potter. (Although, I must admit my second favorite line in the movie is when Potter says, “George, I am an old man and most people hate me. But I don’t like them either, so that makes it all even.” Gotta give props for such keen self-awareness.)
My favorite line from the movie is the one that holds the most truth. It is Clarence Oddbody AS2 who says, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
Oh, Clarence, you have no idea.
As I look at our beautiful fake tree with souvenir ornaments from family trips, ornament gifts from friends that carry deep significance, and the most precious of all, the ornaments made by tiny hands that are no longer tiny…there is absolutely no question that it’s a wonderful life.