Thursday, December 6

The Christmas Tree

So, I'm starting to blog again after a few weeks of hiatus, more like a few months. I have my reasons. As executive editor in a young—and thriving—house, my responsibilities are high and nigh. Everything seems to be piling up and needing immediate attention. Not like I've never been through this before—and not like I am complaining either—but it's been crazy. Awesome crazy. But hey, I love, love, love my job, and I couldn't wish for anything more.

That said, let's move on to the topic at hand: how do we survive the holidays when we can't afford much else? I was thinking about this quite a bit lately after hearing about my acquaintances and friends who weren't doing so well this holiday season. Between being laid off and struggling with limited finance, life can be hard. So, I decide to take you back to the days when I started out as a newly married man with less than fifty bucks in my bank and a part-time job, trying to raise my young family—my wife was pregnant—and brave Christmas at the same time. And hopefully I make sense at all.

This was, oh, many years back, but I can still remember those days. It was poverty at its best. My wife and I rented a small basement of an old mortuary, paid a small rent, and lived our days believing that life could get better; we had each other, and for the most part, life was simple and good. We shopped at thrift stores, baked pies to raise funds for our utility bills, and dreamed big. Although we did not have much, we were happy. (Only recently did I actually tell my wife that the basement we lived in used to be the exact place where bodies were embalmed and prepped for viewing. As expected, she was glad I did not mention it to her then.)

One particular night, about a week before Christmas, I remember sitting in our low-ceiling living room, wondering how Christmas was going to be. We had no gifts, no lights, no Christmas tree. We did not even dare to mention Christmas to anyone lest we were asked to attend a Christmas party for which we could not afford any white elephant gifts. We invited no one to our little basement apartment, and decided to spend the holidays watching TV and putting together a one-thousand-piece-jigsaw puzzle we received as a gift the year before; that should keep us busy. And with the baby coming in a few months, we were determined to save some extra cash for baby clothes and diapers. Since our parents were not available at that time, we had to plan how to do everything when the baby arrived—from our schedules to finances to milk powder, and such. Yes, life turned a little hectic and complex suddenly, especially in my head.

But no one should feel that gloomy when there was so much to hope for. I thought of my unborn son and all the fun things we were going to do together. I thought of baking him birthday cakes and going out on picnics together. Suddenly, everything felt okay. Things would turn out well. I'd graduate, get a job, and work toward something big for my family. And that was when I ran out to my car and drove straight to Walmart with twenty dollars in my wallet.

When my wife returned from her part-time job, our apartment was dark—I had switched off all the lights in the house . . . except for the one source of light I had anticipated for her to see. Right at the end of the living room on a small table in a corner was a miniature Christmas tree only ten inches tall; it stood there humbly covered with about twenty small lights and a star on its top. My wife's face lit up, and she cried. It was a beautiful surprise, indeed. Right at that moment, she felt a soft kick in her womb, and we both knew life, with all of its challenges, was worth everything we went through. It was not the Christmas tree that taught us that, but the fact that we had each other to share it with.

Today, that miniature tree had grown into a ten-foot high tree with ornaments we've accumulated through the years; every one of them reminded us of every year we celebrated Christmas together, each year better than the one before.

To everyone out there who is going through difficult times, you're not alone. And to those of you who are able, reach out your hand and give. It's not the money we ask; oftentimes, it's a smile and the kind and honest words of a friend that will take us through the darker moments of our lives.

So, how do we survive the holidays when we can't afford much else? By being that miniature Christmas tree. By being that light.


Stephanie Coleman said...

Beautiful! I could totally see you and your wife working on that puzzle!! We do a new puzzle every year here at our house and play chess and watch Christmas movies and eat yummy food!

Christopher Loke said...

That's the way to do it. I always wish life is that simple now that my schedule is almost impossible, and my stress level is record high. :)

Elsie Park said...

Your sweet post made me teary-eyed, Chris, especially the part when your wife walked in and saw the humble little tree. Most of us have been (or are, or will be at some point) in the same situation and it's uplifting to remember we can find happiness and peace no matter our circumstance.

Teri Harman said...

So touching, Chris! Thank you.

Christopher Loke said...

Thank you, all, for visiting my blog. You are the greatest.

Janet Kay Jensen said...

Loved hearing your story, Chris.

Christopher Loke said...

Thank you for stopping by, Janet. And I am happy to know you enjoyed it.