Maggie Van Ostrand
to have a wonderful Christmas without fighting traffic, battling mall moms, or
spending any money whatsoever? It can be done, trust me.|
The best Christmas
in my family was a broke one. I had lost everything in a fire just two weeks before
All my holiday purchases had been made, wrapped and put beneath
the eight-foot Christmas tree in my third-floor New York apartment, when the basement
boiler exploded, causing a major fire to race up the walls and explode on my floor.
Everything in my apartment was either burned or destroyed by smoke,
or water from the firefighters' hoses.
You might think the fire caused
an end to that Christmas for me. It might have, but it didn't. Why? Negative circumstances
forced me into the corner of positive thinking.
Instead of trying to
replace the sweaters, toys and jewelry I had bought for family members, I thought
about what they might want if I could afford to buy them anything, anything at
all on the face of the earth.
Then I sat down with my sister at her
place, and looked through a massive stack of old magazines she had collected her
entire life. I cut out pictures of fabulous vacation getaways from sun-filled
beaches to snow-capped mountains; I "bought" two convertibles and one yellow Jeep;
a Vicuña coat (the species was not yet endangered); homes in West Palm Beach and
the Bahamas, Manolo Blahnik shoes and, well, you get the idea.
the pictures in hand-made Christmas cards with a note explaining this would have
been my gift to them if there had been no fire and I had Bill Gates' money.
The response was truly heartwarming and everyone was thrilled with their
Christmas found the family treeless, due to a shortage that year. Our father managed
to find a small and scrawny thing that could hardly be called a tree, let alone
a Christmas tree. No competition for the giant Douglas fir which beautified Christmas
in Rockefeller Center, nor the one which had recently been lit at the White House.
He picked up small fallen pine limbs and twigs from a nearby wooded area, drilled
holes in the trunk of the little, emaciated tree which was now propped up in a
container of water in our living room. Then he glued and doweled the limbs and
twigs into the holes. He also recut the tree's base to give it a slant; since
it was originally tilted, the new slant straightened it out.
took shape before our eyes and, once it was covered with lights, decorations and
a great deal of tinsel personally hung by our perfectionist mom, it didn't look
half bad. The transformation had given the little tree a mantle of nobility and
grace no other tree of ours ever had, before or since.
Like the fondly
recalled party where everything went wrong, these two Christmases are the ones
I remember with the greatest affection.
So if you can't afford today's
tree prices, or are broke at the moment and embarrassed because you can't buy
presents for your loved ones, Christmas isn't about those things.
about love and how you show it.
Copyright Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus"
December 5, 2005 column
Christmas in Texas
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