I'm originally from the east coast, but now I've relocated to the west side of the country. I miss the smell of the sea and the simple, slower pace of life. I grew up in a small(ish) community, about 15,000 people. At the time it was big enough so that you didn't know everyone, but you knew someone who did. It seemed simpler, but history has a way of becoming a bit more rosy colored as it ages.
That being said, there were a few hardships. My parents divorced when I was around 6. I remember the fight and my mother coming in to sleep in my bed. Later my brother and I moved in to a house with the man my mother was seeing. Eventually things settled down, my mother remarried, and we got to see our birth father every other weekend. He would also get us for a few days at Christmas and two weeks in the summer.
I was in my mid-teens and my brother and I went to my father's house for part of the Christmas holidays. He had also remarried and my brother and I got along with his new wife. This year he had waited until we showed up to get the Christmas tree. Usually there were a few people who set up stands selling the trees on the side of the road, but Dad thought it would be good for us to get our own. The town was surrounded by forest and getting a tree wouldn't be that hard to do. So, we drove about 30 minutes out of town, remembering to stay away from anyone's propery.
The day was beautiful. Sunny and crisp. I remember the sound of the snow crunching as we walked through. I still enjoy that sound as I walk in my winter boots over newly fallen snow. We must have walked a ways, looking for the perfect tree. My cheeks were red with the cold, but I didn't feel it. Then we found what we were looking for: the perfect tree. It stood there, not crowded by the other trees and the perfect height. From what I remember, it probably was about seven feet tall. Snow covered the branches and I admired it for a while. My Dad got out his saw and began to saw at the base. We carried the tree back to the car, and drove back to the house.
At home, we set up the tree in the living room. The smell of evergreen filled the house. While it wasn't perfectly symmetrical, we played with it so we had the good side facing the living room. Then we set to work. Popcorn was popped and colored construction paper was taken out. We must have spent the afternoon making strings of popcorn and paper chains for the tree while we sipped on hot chocolate. We looped them around the branches of the tree, trying to make everything look right. We also had a few glass ornaments and hung them on the ends. Lastly we placed a star on the top. To me, everything looked perfect.
That was one of the best Christmas memories of my youth. Yes, I enjoyed opening the gifts on Christmas day. What kid doesn't. But that Christmas made me realized that sometimes the simple things are the best. Try not to get all wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the season. Take some time, sip some hot chocolate, and relive some warm Christmas memories.